Polymer Science

Signal responsive transient coacervation in complex coacervate core micelles



Triggered coacervate phase (de)stabilisation in complex coacervate core micelles (C3Ms) has traditionally been limited to changes in pH and salt concentration, limiting options in responsive C3M material design. To expand this toolbox, we have developed C3Ms, that, at constant physiological pH, assemble and disassemble by coupling to a chemical reaction network (CRN) driven by the conversion of electron deficient allyl acetates and thiol or amine nucleophiles. This CRN produces transient quaternization of tertiary amine-functionalised block copolymers, which can then form the complex coacervate phase. We demonstrate triggered C3M assembly using two different allyl acetates, resulting in dramatically different assembly rates from hours to days. These are applied in various combinations with selected nucleophiles, demonstrating sequential signal induced C3M formation and deformation, as well as transient non-equilibrium (de)formation. We expect that timed and signal-responsive control over coacervate phase formation at physiological pH will find application in nucleic acid delivery, nano reactors and protocell research.

Version notes

Updated to higher resolution PDF that more clearly shows the Figures.


Thumbnail image of Triggered C3M paper final.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of Coacervates SI final.pdf
Supporting Information
Materials and methods, NMR spectra, GPC data, additional TEM images and DLS data.