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Journal of the American Chemical Society
Supramolecular block copolymers under thermodynamic control
Adelizzi, B., Aloi, A., Markvoort, A. J., Ten Eikelder, H. M., Voets, I. K., Palmans, A. R., & Meijer, E. W.
Copolymerization, Monomers, Copolymers, Circular dichroism spectroscopy, Homopolymers
Supramolecular block copolymers are becoming attractive materials in nascent optoelectronic and catalytic technologies. However, their dynamic nature precludes the straightforward tuning and analysis of the polymer’s structure. Here we report the elucidation on the microstructure of triarylamine triamide-based supramolecular block copolymers through a comprehensive battery of spectroscopic, theoretical, and super-resolution microscopic techniques. Via spectroscopic analysis we demonstrate that the direct mixing of preassembled homopolymers and the copolymerization induced by slow cooling of monomers lead to the formation of the same copolymer’s architecture. The small but pronounced deviation of the experimental spectra from the linear combination of the homopolymers’ spectra hints at the formation of block copolymers. A mass balance model is introduced to further unravel the microstructure of the copolymers formed, and it confirms that stable multiblock supramolecular copolymers can be accessed from different routes. The multiblock structure of the supramolecular copolymers originates from the fine balance between favorable hydrogen-bonding interactions and a small mismatch penalty between two different monomers. Finally, we visualized the formation of the supramolecular block copolymers by adapting a recently developed super-resolution microscopy technique, interface point accumulation for imaging in nanoscale topography (iPAINT), for visualizing the architectures formed in organic media. Combining multiple techniques was crucial to unveil the microstructure of these complex dynamic supramolecular systems.