Multidimensional hierarchical self-assembly of amphiphilic cylindrical block comicelles

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Science  20 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6228, pp. 1329-1332
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261816

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Cylindrical polymer micelles pack in 3D

When you control chemistry, solvents, temperature, and concentration, surfactants and block copolymers will readily assemble into micelles, rods, and other structures. Qiu et al. take this to new lengths through precise selection of longer polymer blocks that self-assemble through a crystallization process (see the Perspective by Lee et al.). They chose polymer blocks that were either hydrophobic or polar and used miscible solvents that were each ideal for only one of the blocks. Their triblock comicelles generated a wide variety of stable three-dimensional superstructures through side-by-side stacking and end-to-end intermicellar association.

Science, this issue p. 1329; see also p. 1310


Self-assembly of molecular and block copolymer amphiphiles represents a well-established route to micelles with a wide variety of shapes and gel-like phases. We demonstrate an analogous process, but on a longer length scale, in which amphiphilic P-H-P and H-P-H cylindrical triblock comicelles with hydrophobic (H) or polar (P) segments that are monodisperse in length are able to self-assemble side by side or end to end in nonsolvents for the central or terminal segments, respectively. This allows the formation of cylindrical supermicelles and one-dimensional (1D) or 3D superstructures that persist in both solution and the solid state. These assemblies possess multiple levels of structural hierarchy in combination with existence on a multimicrometer-length scale, features that are generally only found in natural materials.

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