Helical Vesicles, Segmented Semivesicles, and Noncircular Bilayer Sheets from Solution-State Self-Assembly of ABC Miktoarm Star Terpolymers
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Multicompartment micelles, especially nanostructured vesicles, offer tremendous potential as delivery vehicles of therapeutic agents and nanoreactors. Solution-state self-assembly of miktoarm star terpolymers provides a versatile and powerful route to obtain multicompartment micelles. Here we report simulations of solution-state self-assembly of ABC star terpolymers composed of a solvophilic A arm and two solvophobic B and C arms. A variety of multicompartment micelles are predicted from the simulations. Phase diagrams for typical star terpolymers are constructed. It is discovered that the overall micelle morphology is largely controlled by the volume fraction of the solvophilic A arms, whereas the internal compartmented and/or segregated structures depend on the ratio between the volume fractions of the two solvophobic arms. The polymer-solvent and polymer-polymer interactions can be used to tune the effective volume fraction of the A-arm and, thereby, induce morphological transitions. For terpolymers with equal or nearly equal length of B and C arms, several previously unknown structures, including vesicles with novel lateral structures (helices or stacked donuts), segmented semivesicles, and elliptic or triangular bilayer sheets, are discovered. When the lengths of B and C arms are not equal, novel micelles such as multicompartment disks and onions are observed.
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