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Can Polymersomes Form Colloidosomes?

Thompson, Kate L., Chambon, Pierre, Verber, Robert, Armes, Steven P.
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2012 v.134 no.30 pp. 12450-12453
composite polymers, crosslinking, droplets, emulsifiers, emulsifying, emulsions, ethylene glycol, fluorescence microscopy, homogenization, nanomaterials, oils, polymerization, standard operating procedures, transmission electron microscopy
Hydroxy-functionalized polymersomes (or block copolymer vesicles) were prepared via a facile one-pot RAFT aqueous dispersion polymerization protocol and evaluated as Pickering emulsifiers for the stabilization of emulsions of n-dodecane emulsion droplets in water. Linear polymersomes produced polydisperse oil droplets with diameters of ∼50 μm regardless of the polymersome concentration in the aqueous phase. Introducing an oil-soluble polymeric diisocyanate cross-linker into the oil phase prior to homogenization led to block copolymer microcapsules, as expected. However, TEM inspection of these microcapsules after an alcohol challenge revealed no evidence for polymersomes, suggesting these delicate nanostructures do not survive the high-shear emulsification process. Thus the emulsion droplets are stabilized by individual diblock copolymer chains, rather than polymersomes. Cross-linked polymersomes (prepared by the addition of ethylene glycol dimethacrylate as a third comonomer) also formed stable n-dodecane-in-water Pickering emulsions, as judged by optical and fluorescence microscopy. However, in this case the droplet diameter varied from 50 to 250 μm depending on the aqueous polymersome concentration. Moreover, diisocyanate cross-linking at the oil/water interface led to the formation of well-defined colloidosomes, as judged by TEM studies. Thus polymersomes can indeed stabilize colloidosomes, provided that they are sufficiently cross-linked to survive emulsification.