By Kelly A. Salzo
The American Chemical Society (ACS) Editors’ Choice recently featured UConn Associate Professor, Dr. Eugene Pinkhassik (GEMS/CHEM/IMS), Mariya D. Kim (Saint Louis University), and UConn Assistant Research Professor Dr. Sergey A. Dergunov’s (CHEM) article, “Directed Assembly of Vesicle-Templated Polymer Nanocapsules under Near-Physiological Conditions” published in the Langmuir Journal. Their paper suggests “a simple and scalable method for the synthesis of hollow polymer nanocapsules in the bilayers of spontaneously assembled surfactant vesicles.”
The researchers created nanocapsules with polymerization using a peroxide initiator and an amine activator co-dissolved with monomers and cross-linkers in the hydrophobic interior of the surfactant bilayer. By hydrating, mixing, and incubating the aqueous solutions, equilibrium monomer-loaded vesicles formed. After removing oxygen and incubating the solution for an additional 1 to 2 hours, the group was able to synthesize porous nanocapsules which supported high yield with no pinhole defects. The team recognizes the potential for controlling all aspects of the nanocapsule architecture and properties using a variety of surfactants, monomers, crosslinkers, and polymerization conditions. Also, since the cross-linking thermo-polymerization does not require exposure to UV light, this technique is effective for encapsulating enzymes, catalysts, light-sensitive compounds, and other fragile molecules. The synthetic compositions and mild conditions are close to the physiological conditions, which make polymer nanocapsules attractive for biomedical applications such as devices for the delivery of drugs and imaging agents, nanoreactors, and optical sensors. In recent related studies, the team showed that these biocompatible nanocapsules can act as nanothermometers. In addition, by controlling the environment of nanopores in the capsule shells, the researchers achieved catch and release of molecules in the physiological conditions.
Dr. Eugene Pinkhassik joined UConn in the fall of 2014 as an associate professor in the Chemistry Department after receiving his Ph.D. at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague, Czech Republic in 1997 and completing his postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado in 2000. His research interests include making nanomaterials and nanodevices.
Dr. Sergey A. Dergunov joined UConn in June 2014 as an assistant research professor for polymer chemistry after receiving his Ph.D. in chemistry from Kazakh National University in 2005 and finishing his postdoctoral research at the University of Memphis in 2011. His research interests focus on the development of functional materials as a platform and then applying them to various fields.