PI: Carson Bruns
Sponsor: American Chemical Society: Petroleum Research Fund
Abstract: The forging of mechanical bonds has been mastered at both molecular and macroscopic size scales, but not yet on the mesoscale (1–1000 microns)—a size regime of great importance in colloid and interface science. Our aim is to synthesize a new class of soft polymer colloids possessing mechanical bonds, where two or more particles are physically entangled but not otherwise bonded. These particles will be synthesized by photo-polymerization and crosslinking of acrylic monomers through a photomask, followed by self-assembly of the resulting shape-defined colloidal gels into entangled particles. The final assemblies will comprise an axle particle threaded through the aperture of a ring particle—the colloidal counterpart of the ring-and- axle molecules known as rotaxanes. We propose to (i) develop a general, modular method for making mechanically bonded particles with a wide variety of possible surface chemistries, and (ii) investigate the effect of the mechanical bond on the physical and mechanical properties of “colloidal rotaxanes” by comparing them with their non-interlocked component parts. If we succeed, these particles will represent a fundamentally new class of soft matter with potential to introduce novel properties to colloidal materials and perhaps even form the basis of self assembled soft machines in the future.