Production of aqueous dispersions of polymeric nanoparticles via heterogeneous radical polymerization in emulsion-type systems is of enormous commercial importance. The ability to reversibly destabilize such a latex is highly desirable, for example, to save transportation costs. Herein, a method for synthesis of photo-responsive polymer latexes that can be destabilized (leading to sedimentation) by only using UV irradiation (no addition of chemicals or change in the experimental conditions) and subsequently redispersed by stirring under visible light irradiation is described. The destabilization/redispersion mechanism relies on photoinduced trans-cis isomerization of the cationic diazene surfactant 2-(4-(4-butylphenyl)diazenylphenoxy)ethyltrimethylammonium bromide (C4AzoTAB) used in conjunction with the anionic surfactant sodium dodecyl sulfate. It is demonstrated that reversible destabilization can be achieved very rapidly (90 s residence time) employing continuous flow technology.
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