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Polymer Cyclization as a General Strategy for the Emergence of Hierarchical Nanostructures
preprintsubmitted on 30.10.2020, 13:03 and posted on 02.11.2020, 04:54 by Chaojian Chen, Manjesh Kumar Singh, Katrin Wunderlich, Sean Harvey, Manfred Wagner, George Fytas, Kurt Kremer, Debashish Mukherji, David Yuen Wah Ng, Tanja Weil
The creation of synthetic polymer nanoobjects with well-defined hierarchical structures is important for a wide range of applications such as nanomaterial synthesis, catalysis, and therapeutics. Inspired by the programmability and precise three-dimensional architectures of biomolecules, we report the strategy of fabricating controlled hierarchical structures through self-assembly of folded synthetic polymers. Linear poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) of different lengths are folded into cyclic polymers and their self-assembly into hierarchical structures is elucidated by various experimental techniques and molecular dynamics simulations. Based on their structural similarity, macrocyclic brush polymers with amphiphilic block side chains are synthesized, which can self-assemble into wormlike structures and higher-ordered networks. Our work points out the vital role of polymer folding in macromolecular self-assembly and establishes a versatile approach for constructing biomimetic hierarchical assemblies.