Supramolecular Complexes of Multivalent Cholesterol-Containing Polymers to Solubilize Carbon Nanotubes in Apolar Organic Solvents
Copolymers of 2-ethylhexyl acrylate (EHA) and cholesteryloxycarbonyl-2-hydroxymethacrylate (CEM) were prepared by reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization. Supramolecular complexes of these copolymers with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were soluble in THF, toluene, and isooctane. The colloidal solutions remained stable for months without aggregation. The rationale for the choice of CEM was based on the high adsorption energy of cholesterol on the CNT surface, as computed by DFT calculations. Adsorption isotherms were experimentally measured for copolymers of various architectures (statistical, diblock, and star copolymers), thereby demonstrating that 2-5 cholesterol groups were adsorbed per polymer chain. Once the supramolecular complex had dried, the CNTs could be easily resolubilized in isooctane without the need for high-power sonication and in the absence of added polymer. Analysis by atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) indicated that the CNTs were devoid of bundles. The supramolecular complexes could also be employed in an inverse emulsion polymerization of 2-hydroxyethylmethacrylate (HEMA) in isooctane and dodecane, thereby leading to the formation of a continuous polymeric sheath around the CNTs. Thus, this technique leads to the formation of very stable dispersions in non-polar organic solvents, without altering the fundamental properties of the CNTs.