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On the Origins of Morphological Complexity in Block Copolymer Surfactants

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Science  18 Apr 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5618, pp. 460-464
DOI: 10.1126/science.1082193

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Abstract

Amphiphilic compounds such as lipids and surfactants are fundamental building blocks of soft matter. We describe experiments with poly(1,2-butadiene-b-ethylene oxide) (PB-PEO) diblock copolymers, which form Y-junctions and three-dimensional networks in water at weight fractions of PEOintermediate to those associated with vesicle and wormlike micelle morphologies. Fragmentation of the network produces a nonergodic array of complex reticulated particles that have been imaged by cryogenic transmission electron microscopy. Data obtained with two sets of PB-PEOcompounds indicate that this type of self-assembly appears above a critical molecular weight. These block copolymers represent versatile amphiphiles, mimicking certain low molecular weight three-component (surfactant/water/oil) microemulsions, without addition of a separate hydrophobe.

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