Expandable Temperature-Responsive Polymeric Nanotubes

Marek W. Urban, University of Southern Mississippi

Originally published in ACS Macro Lett., 2012, 1 (1), pp 232–235.


Materials with the ability of dimensional changes on demand exhibit many potential applications ranging from adaptive composites that mimic biological functions under extreme conditions to microfluidics or neural implants to stimulate components of the nervous systems. These studies show the synthesis of temperature-induced reversibly expandable nanotubes that were prepared by polymerization of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAAM) in the presence of biologically active 1,2-bis(tricosa-10,12-diynoyl)-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DC8,9PC) diacetylenic phospholipids (PL). As a result, thermally responsive poly-NIPAM-phospholipid nanotubes (PNNTs) were prepared. Polymerization reactions occur within hydrophilic regions of PL bilayers, whereas PL hydrophobic zones facilitate transport and supply of the monomer for polymerization. The unique feature of PNNTs is that, above 37 °C, the outer diameter (OD) as well as the wall thickness (WT) shrink by 20 and 55%, respectively, whereas the inner diameter (ID) increases by 16%. This behavior is attributed to the PNIPAM backbone buckling induced by local rearrangements within PL bilayered morphologies. The presence of acetylenic moieties along the PL bilayers in PNNTs provides an opportunity for irreversible “locking” of designable dimensions, which is facilitated by the formation of cross-linked PNNTs (CL-PNNTs).