Dial-In Synthesis of ‘Polymer Opal’ Core–Interlayer–Shell Composite Nanoparticles

Giselle Rosetta, Line Macaire, Mike Butters, Chris E. Finlayson

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The emulsion polymerization process via which core–interlayer–shell polymer nanoparticles are synthesized is engineered to offer a crucial control of the eventual size and monodispersity of the polystyrene (PS) cores. We examine the role of key experimental parameters, optimizing the temperature, reactant purity, and agitation (stirring) rate. The subsequent addition of a poly(methyl-methacrylate) (PMMA) grafting layer and a poly(ethyl-acrylate) (PEA) shell layer produces composite particles, which are shear-orderable into opaline films, known as ‘polymer opals’. We thus demonstrate pathways toward a ‘dial-in’ process, where the time taken to obtain the target core size is mapped to the expected resultant structural color. At reaction temperatures of 60 and 70 °C, viable conditions are found where all syntheses give an excellent level of monodispersity (polydispersity index < 0.02), suitable for interlayer and shell growth. These reports may be readily applied to a wider industrial scale fabrication pipeline for these polymeric photonic materials.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3507
Number of pages20
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2023


  • core-shell nanoparticles
  • emulsion polymerization
  • polymer composites
  • process engineering
  • ‘dial-in’ processing


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