Tunable Encapsulation Structure of Block Copolymer Coated Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes in Aqueous Solution
by Y Han, S Ahn, G S Smith, C Do
Nanosized and shape-tunable molecular building blocks can provide great opportunities for the fabrication of precisely controlled nanostructures. In this work, we have fabricated a molecular building block of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) coated by PPO–PEO–PPO block copolymers whose encapsulation structure can be controlled via temperature or addition of small molecules. The structure and optical properties of SWNT block copolymers have been investigated by small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), ultraviolet–visible (UV–vis) spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy (AFM), and molecular dynamics (MD) simulation. The structure of the hydrated block copolymer layer surrounding SWNT can be controlled reversibly by varying temperature as well as by irreversibly adding 5-methylsalicylic acid (5MS). Increasing hydrophobicity of the polymers with temperature and strong tendency of 5MS to interact with both block copolymers and π orbitals of the SWNTs are likely to be responsible for the significant structural change of the block copolymer encapsulation layer, from loose corona shell to tightly encapsulating compact shell. Our result shows an efficient and simple way to fabricate and manipulate carbon-based nano building blocks in aqueous systems with tunable structure.