Nanoscale Confinement Effects on Poly(ε-Caprolactone) Crystallization at the Air/Water Interface & Surfactant Interactions with Phospholipid Bilayers
Two-dimensional (2D) nanoscale confinement effects on poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) crystallization were probed through crystallization studies of PCL-b-poly(tert-butyl acrylate) (PCL-b-PtBA) copolymers, PCL with bulky tri-tert-butyl ester endgroups (PCL triesters), PCL with triacid end groups (PCL triacids), and magnetic nanoparticles stabilized by PCL triacid (PCL MNPs) at the air/water (A/W) interface. Thermodynamic analyses of surface pressure-area per monomer (Π−A)) isotherms for the Langmuir films at the A/W interface showed that PCL-b-PtBA copolymers, PCL triheads and PCL MNPs all formed homogenous monolayers below the dynamic collapse pressure of PCL, ΠC ~11 mN•m⁻¹. For compression past the collapse point, the PCL monolayers underwent a phase transition to three-dimensional (3D) crystals and the nanoscale confinements impacted the PCL crystalline morphologies. Studies of PCL-b-PtBA copolymers revealed that the morphologies of the LB-films became smaller and transitioned to dendrites with defects, stripes and finally nano-scale cylindrical features as the block length of PtBA increased.
For the case of PCL triester, irregularly shaped crystals formed at the A/W interface and this was attributed to the accumulation of bulky tert-butyl ester groups around the crystal growth fronts. In contrast, regular, nearly round-shaped lamellar crystals were obtained for PCL triacids. These morphological differences between PCL triacids and PCL triesters were molar mass dependent and attributed to differences in dipole density and the submersion of carboxylic acid groups in the subphase. Nonetheless, enhanced uniformity for PCL triacid crystals was not retained once the polymers were tethered to the spherical surface of a PCL MNP. Instead, the PCL MNPs exhibited small irregularly shaped crystals. This nano-scale confinement effect on the surface morphology at the A/W interface was also molar mass dependent. For the small molar mass PCL MNPs, two layers of collapsed nanoparticles were observed.
In a later chapter, studies of polyethylene glycol (PEG) surfactant adsorption onto phospholipid bilayers through quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) measurements revealed a strong dependence of the adsorption and desorption kinetics on hydrophobic tail group structure. PEG surfactants with a single linear alkyl tail inserted and saturated the bilayer surface quickly and the surfactants had relatively fast desorption rates. In contrast, PEG lipids, including dioleoyl PEG lipids and cholesterol PEGs, demonstrated slower adsorption and desorption kinetics. The interactions of Pluronics and Nonoxynol surfactants with phospholipid bilayers were also studied. Pluronics showed no apparent affinity for the phospholipid bilayer, while the Nonoxynol surfactants damaged the lipid bilayers as PEG chain length decreased.