Anisotropic Hollow Microgels That Can Adapt Their Size, Shape, and Softness

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  • Anne C. Nickel, RWTH Aachen University
  • ,
  • Andrea Scotti, RWTH Aachen University
  • ,
  • Judith E. Houston, Jülich Research Centre, European Spallation Source ERIC
  • ,
  • Thiago Ito, Lund University
  • ,
  • Jérôme Crassous, RWTH Aachen University
  • ,
  • Jan Skov Pedersen
  • Walter Richtering, RWTH Aachen University, JARA-SOFT

The development of soft anisotropic building blocks is of great interest for various applications in soft matter. Furthermore, such systems would be important model systems for ordering phenomena in fundamental soft matter science. In this work, we address the challenge of creating hollow and anisotropically shaped thermoresponsive microgels, polymeric networks with a solvent filled cavity in their center that are swollen in a good solvent. Sacrificial elliptical hematite silica particles were utilized as a template for the synthesis of a cross-linked N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAm) shell. By varying the amount of NIPAm, two anisotropic microgels were synthesized with either a thin or thick microgel shell. We characterized these precursor core-shell and the resulting hollow microgels using a combination of light, X-ray, and neutron scattering. New form factor models, accounting for the cavity, the polymer distribution and the anisotropy, have been developed for fitting the scattering data. With such models, we demonstrated the existence of the cavity and simultaneously the anisotropic character of the microgels. Furthermore, we show that the thickness of the shell has a major influence on the shape and the cavity dimension of the microgel after etching of the sacrificial core. Finally, the effect of temperature is investigated, showing that changes in size, softness, and aspect ratio are triggered by temperature.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNano Letters
Pages (from-to)8161-8170
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

    Research areas

  • anisotropic colloids, anisotropic microgels, Microgels, small-angle neutron scattering, soft matter, thermoresponsive polymer

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