Step-Growth Polymerization of Inorganic Nanoparticles

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Science  09 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5988, pp. 197-200
DOI: 10.1126/science.1189457

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Nanorod Polymers

Nanoparticles and colloids have been used to model crystallization and melting phenomena. Liu et al. (p. 197) studied the polymerization kinetics of nanoparticles. Functionalized arrowhead nanorods acted as linkable units that joined together in solvent-tuned assembly. The results resembled common processes of chemical polymerization: Growth was controlled kinetically and could be interpreted by formulas for step-growth polymerization and branching. Furthermore, some isomerization phenomena were observed, as was the formation of cyclic “macromolecules.”


Self-organization of nanoparticles is an efficient strategy for producing nanostructures with complex, hierarchical architectures. The past decade has witnessed great progress in nanoparticle self-assembly, yet the quantitative prediction of the architecture of nanoparticle ensembles and of the kinetics of their formation remains a challenge. We report on the marked similarity between the self-assembly of metal nanoparticles and reaction-controlled step-growth polymerization. The nanoparticles act as multifunctional monomer units, which form reversible, noncovalent bonds at specific bond angles and organize themselves into a colloidal polymer. We show that the kinetics and statistics of step-growth polymerization enable a quantitative prediction of the architecture of linear, branched, and cyclic self-assembled nanostructures; their aggregation numbers and size distribution; and the formation of structural isomers.

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