Advances in nanoparticle synthesis, self-assembly, and surface coating or patterning have enabled a diverse array of applications ranging from photonic and phononic crystal fabrication to drug delivery vehicles. One of the key obstacles restricting its potential is structural and thermal stability. The presence of a glass transition can facilitate deformation within nanoparticles, thus resulting in a significant alteration in structure and performance. Recently, we detected a glassy-state transition within individual polystyrene nanoparticles and related its origin to the presence of a surface layer with enhanced dynamics compared to the bulk. The presence of this mobile layer could have a dramatic impact on the thermal stability of polymer nanoparticles. Here, we demonstrate how the addition of a shell layer, as thin as a single polymer chain, atop the nanoparticles could completely eliminate any evidence of enhanced mobility at the surface of polystyrene nanoparticles. The ultrathin polymer shell layers were placed atop the nanoparticles via two approaches: (i) covalent bonding or (ii) electrostatic interactions. The temperature dependence of the particle vibrational spectrum, as recorded by Brillouin light scattering, was used to probe the surface mobility of nanoparticles with and without a shell layer. Beyond suppression of the surface mobility, the presence of the ultrathin polymer shell layers impacted the nanoparticle glass transition temperature and shear modulus, albeit to a lesser extent. The implication of this work is that the core-shell architecture allows for tailoring of the nanoparticle elasticity, surface softening, and glass transition temperature.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Organic Chemistry
- Polymers and Plastics
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Materials Chemistry