Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Polymer Science and Engineering

Committee Chair

Charles L. McCormick

Committee Chair School

Polymer Science and Engineering

Committee Member 2

Sarah Morgan

Committee Member 2 School

Polymer Science and Engineering

Committee Member 3

Derek Patton

Committee Member 3 School

Polymer Science and Engineering

Committee Member 4

Douglas Masterson

Committee Member 4 School

Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Committee Member 5

Daniel Savin


Amphiphilic copolymers have become increasingly important for environmental and biological applications due to their behavioral characteristics in aqueous solution. For example, structurally-tailored statistical amphiphilic copolymers or “polysoaps” can self-assemble into micelles or other architectures in water at various concentrations. Polysoaps may be differentiated from small molecule surfactant micelles in their capability to self-assemble into unimolecular associates (unimolecular micelles) with no dependence on concentration. Such micelles offer enormous potential for dispersion of hydrophobic species in water at high dilution. Importantly, each polymer chain forms its own micelle and upon dilution, these micelles remain intact and capable of dispersing hydrocarbon material in their core domain. This dissertation focuses on determining the parameters that contribute to the unique unimeric micelle properties of polysoaps. We utilize RAFT copolymerization to prepare well-controlled copolymers with a variety of functional groups, molecular weights, and hydrophobic mole fractions. With this research platform, we achieve a better understanding of how single polymer chains form unimeric assemblies capable of sequestering hydrocarbons in water. With sufficiently high hydrophobic content along a water-soluble backbone, micelles may form, some with unimeric structures. The unimeric micelles have been shown to have higher uptake efficiencies of hydrocarbon into their core domains as compared to multimeric, polymer-based and small molecule, surfactant-based micelle. This work demonstrates the potential utility of polysoaps for contemporary applications including oil spill remediation, water treatment, and targeted drug delivery.