Preparation and Characterization of Low Dispersity Anionic Multiresponsive Core–Shell Polymer Nanoparticles

We prepared anionic multistimuli responsive core–shell polymer nanoparticles with very low size dispersity. By using either acrylic acid (AA) or methacrylic acid (MA) as a comonomer in the poly­(N-isopropyl acrylamide) (PNIPAM) shell, we are able to change the distribution of negative charges in the nanoparticle shell. The particle size, volume phase transition temperature, and aggregation state can be modulated using temperature, pH, or ionic strength, providing a very versatile platform for applications in sensors, medical diagnostics, environmental remediation, etc. The nanoparticles have a glassy poly­(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) core of ca. 40 nm radius and a cross-linked PNIPAM anionic shell with either AA or MA comonomers. The particles, p­(N-AA) and p­(MA-N), respectively, have the same total charge but different charge distributions. While the p­(MA-N) particles have the negative charges preferentially distributed toward the inner shell, in the case of the p­(N-AA) particles the charge extends more to the particle outer shell. The volume phase transition temperature (TVPT) of the particles is affected by the charge distribution and can be fine-tuned by controlling the electrostatic repulsion on the particle shell (using pH and ionic strength). By suppressing the particle charge we can also induce temperature-driven particle aggregation.