Precise Size Control in Microgel Synthesis for “Designer Polydispersites”
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The goal of this project was to synthesize a series of monodisperse microgel populations with slightly different average radii. The Lyon group has previously shown that colloidal crystals assembled from hydrogel microparticles (microgels) are extremely tolerant to defects in the form of larger microgel "dopants". To investigate the role of polydispersity in general on crystallization, and to explore the limits of defect tolerance, we have undertaken the synthesis of microgels composed of NIPAM (N-isopropylacrylamide) cross linked with BIS (N,N’-methylene bisacrylamide) over a range of particle sizes. These dispersions can then be mixed to form dispersions of arbitrary or “designer” polydispersity. These samples will then be analyzed via optical microscopy and neutron scattering in collaboration with the Fernandez-Nieves group.