Microengineering of Soft Functional Materials by Controlling the Fiber Network Formation

Department of Physics, National University of Singapore, 2 Science Drive 3, Singapore 117542.
The Journal of Physical Chemistry B (Impact Factor: 3.38). 11/2009; 113(47):15467-72. DOI: 10.1021/jp907963t
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The engineering of soft functional materials based on the construction of three-dimensional interconnecting self-organized nanofiber networks is reported. The system under investigation is an organogel formed by N-lauroyl-L-glutamic acid di-n-butylamide (GP-1) in propylene glycol. The engineering of soft functional materials is implemented by controlling primary nucleation kinetics of GP-1, which can be achieved by both reducing thermodynamic driving force and/or introducing a tiny amount of specific copolymers (i.e., poly(methyl methacrylate comethacrylic acid)). The primary nucleation rate of GP-1 is correlated to the number density of GP-1 spherulites, which determines the overall rheological properties of soft functional materials. The results show that the presence of a tiny amount of the polymer (0.01-0.06%) can effectively inhibit the nucleation of GP-1 spherulites, which leads to the formation of integrated fiber networks. It follows that with the additive approach, the viscoelasticity of the soft functional material is significantly enhanced (i.e., more than 1.5 times at 40 degrees C). A combination of the thermal and additive approach led to an improvement of 3.5 times in the viscosity of the gel.

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