3,4-Ethylenedioxythiophene (EDOT) End-Group Functionalized Poly-epsilon-caprolactone (PCL): Self-Assembly in Organic Solvents and Its Coincidentally Observed Peculiar Behavior in Thin Film and Protonated Media

Bendrea A., Cianga L., Ailiesei G., Ursu E., Goen Colak D. , Cianga I.

POLYMERS, vol.13, no.16, 2021 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 13 Issue: 16
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.3390/polym13162720
  • Title of Journal : POLYMERS
  • Keywords: poly-epsilon-caprolactone, 3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene (EDOT), self-assembly, electroactive macromonomers, amphiphiles, polymer single crystals, micelles, H-1- and 2D-correlated H-1-H-1-NMR spectroscopy analysis, atom force microscopy (AFM), STAR-BRANCHED POLYESTERS, SINGLE-CRYSTALS, POLY(EPSILON-CAPROLACTONE) ARMS, POLY(ETHYLENE GLYCOL), ENZYMATIC DEGRADATION, CONJUGATED MOLECULES, BLOCK-COPOLYMERS, ANTICANCER DRUG, SIDE-CHAINS, CRYSTALLIZATION


End-group functionalization of homopolymers is a valuable way to produce high-fidelity nanostructured and functional soft materials when the structures obtained have the capacity for self-assembly (SA) encoded in their structural details. Herein, an end-functionalized PCL with a pi-conjugated EDOT moiety, (EDOT-PCL), designed exclusively from hydrophobic domains, as a functional "hydrophobic amphiphile", was synthesized in the bulk ROP of epsilon-caprolactone. The experimental results obtained by spectroscopic methods, including NMR, UV-vis, and fluorescence, using DLS and by AFM, confirm that in solvents with extremely different polarities (chloroform and acetonitrile), EDOT-PCL presents an interaction- and structure-based bias, which is strong and selective enough to exert control over supramolecular packing, both in dispersions and in the film state. This leads to the diversity of SA structures, including spheroidal, straight, and helical rods, as well as orthorhombic single crystals, with solvent-dependent shapes and sizes, confirming that EDOT-PCL behaves as a "block-molecule". According to the results from AFM imaging, an unexpected transformation of micelle-type nanostructures into single 2D lamellar crystals, through breakout crystallization, took place by simple acetonitrile evaporation during the formation of the film on the mica support at room temperature. Moreover, EDOT-PCL's propensity for spontaneous oxidant-free oligomerization in acidic media was proposed as a presumptive answer for the unexpected appearance of blue color during its dissolution in CDCl3 at a high concentration. FT-IR, UV-vis, and fluorescence techniques were used to support this claim. Besides being intriguing and unforeseen, the experimental findings concerning EDOT-PCL have raised new and interesting questions that deserve to be addressed in future research.