Lipids and amphiphilic block copolymers spontaneously self-assemble in water to form a plethora of micelles and vesicles. They are typically fluidic in nature and often mechanically weak for applications such as drug delivery and gene therapeutics. Mechanical properties of polymeric materials could be improved by forming crystalline structures. However, most of the self-assembled micelles and vesicles have curved surfaces and precisely tuning crystallization within a nanoscale curved space is challenging, as the curved geometry is incommensurate with crystals having three-dimensional translational symmetry. Herein, we report using a miniemulsion crystallization method to grow nanosized, polymer single-crystal-like capsules. We coin the name crystalsome to describe this unique structure, because they are formed by polymer lamellar crystals and their structure mimics liposomes and polymersomes. Using poly(L-lactic acid) (PLLA) as the model polymer, we show that curved water/p-xylene interface formed by the miniemulsion process can guide the growth of PLLA single crystals. Crystalsomes with the size ranging from ∼148 nm to over 1 μm have been formed. Atomic force microscopy measurement demonstrate a two to three orders of magnitude increase in bending modulus compared with conventional polymersomes. We envisage that this novel structure could shed light on investigating spherical crystallography and drug delivery.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)