Block copolymers offer an interesting platform to study chemically triggered transitions in self-assembled structures. We have previously reported the oxidative degradation of vesicles made of poly(propylene sulfide)-poly(ethylene glycol) (PPS-PEG) copolymers. Here we propose a mechanism for vesicle degradation deduced from copolymer conformational changes occurring at the air/water interface in a Langmuir trough together with a reactive subphase. The hydrophobic PPS block is converted into hydrophilic poly(propylene sulfoxide) and poly(propylene sulfone) by oxidation upon exposure to 1% aqueous H2O2 subphase. As a result, a dramatic increase in area per molecule at constant surface pressure (II) was observed, followed by an apparent decrease (recorded as decrease in area at constant II) due to copolymer dissolution. For monolayers at the air/water surface, the large interfacial tensions present suppress increases in local curvature for alleviating the increased hydrophilicity of the copolymer chains. By contrast, vesicles can potentially rearrange molecules in their bilayers to accommodate a changing hydrophilic-lipophilic balance (HLB). Similar time scales for monolayer rearrangement and vesicle degradation imply a common copolymer chain solubilization mechanism, which in vesicles lead to an eventual transition to aggregates of higher curvature, such as cylindrical and spherical micelles. Subtle differences in response to the applied surface pressure for the diblock compared to the triblock suggest an effect of the different chain mobility.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry