Synthesis and Characterization of Core/Shell Hydrogel Nanoparticles and Their Application to Colloidal Crystal Optical Materials
McGrath, Jonathan G.
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This dissertation describes the use of spherical micro- and nanoparticles as building blocks for the fabrication of colloidal crystals. The polymer component used in all of the projects that are described herein is poly-N-isopropylacrylamide (pNIPAm). The polymeric identity of particles composed of this soft, hydrogel material, which is also thermoresponsive, contributes to particle self-assembly to form ordered structures. Specifically, particles that possess a core/shell topology were investigated to allow for the localization of distinct polymeric properties. Chapter 2 examines a characterization technique using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) that was explored to investigate the structure of pNIPAm particles that possess this core/shell topology. Chapters 4-6 investigate strategies to impart both stability and flexibility to the particles so that these properties could assist in particle self-assembly as well as provide a stable construct for the production of robust crystalline materials. Styrene was used as the main monomer component in a copolymer synthesis with NIPAm to achieve poly(styrene-co-N-isopropylacrylamide particles (pS-co-NIPAm) that exhibited both hard and soft properties. Simple drying procedures were used to form crystal assemblies with these particles and the application of these pS-co-NIPAm particle suspensions as processable, photonic inks is also investigated. Chapter 7 examines the ability to physically cross-link colloidal crystals composed of pS-co-NIPAm particles by simple heating methods to produce robust films. The optical properties of these crystal films could be tuned by simple rehydration of the film due to the hydrogel character of the crystal building blocks. Chapters 3 and 5 examine the synthesis and self-assembly strategies of core/shell particles using the properties of pNIPAm shell layers that have been added to different types of core particles (silver or pS-co-NIPAm) for the purposes of fabricating colloidal crystals with enhanced properties using thermal annealing procedures. Chapter 8 explores the use of silver particles as tracers for the characterization of colloidal crystals composed of thermally annealed colloidal crystals composed of pNIPAm hydrogel particles.