Characterization of bi-layered magnetic nanoparticles synthesized via two-step surface-initiated ring-opening polymerization


A versatile strategy to integrate multiple functions in a polymer based material is the formation of polymer networks with defined nanostructures. Here, we present synthesis and comprehensive characterization of covalently surface functionalized magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) comprising a bi-layer oligomeric shell, using Sn(Oct)2 as catalyst for a two-step functionalization. These hydroxy-terminated precursors for degradable magneto- and thermo-sensitive polymer networks were prepared via two subsequent surface-initiated ring-opening polymerizations (ROPs) with ω-pentadecalactone and ε-caprolactone. A two-step mass loss obtained in thermogravimetric analysis and two distinct melting transitions around 50 and 85°C observed in differential scanning calorimetry experiments, which are attributed to the melting of OPDL and OCL crystallites, confirmed a successful preparation of the modified MNPs. The oligomeric coating of the nanoparticles could be visualized by transmission electron microscopy. The investigation of degrafted oligomeric coatings by gel permeation chromatography and 1H-NMR spectroscopy showed an increase in number average molecular weight as well as the presence of signals related to both of oligo(ω-pentadecalactone) (OPDL) and oligo(ε-caprolactone) (OCL) after the second ROP. A more detailed analysis of the NMR results revealed that only a few ω-pentadecalactone repeating units are present in the degrafted oligomeric bi-layers, whereby a considerable degree of transesterification could be observed when OPDL was polymerized in the 2nd ROP step. These findings are supported by a low degree of crystallinity for OPDL in the degrafted oligomeric bi-layers obtained in wide angle X-ray scattering experiments. Based on these findings it can be concluded that Sn(Oct)2 was suitable as catalyst for the preparation of nanosized bi-layered coated MNP precursors by a two-step ROP.
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