Probing nanoscale coassembly with dual mechanochromic sensors

Hande E. Cingil, E.B. Boz, J. Wang, M.A. Cohen Stuart, J. Sprakel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Attractive electrostatic forces between polymers can be exploited to create well-defined and responsive nanoscale structures. In the process of charge-driven coassembly, the polymers involved undergo subtle conformational changes. However, ascertaining these conformational transitions, and relating this to the nanostructures that are formed, has remained elusive to date. Here it is shown how the force-optical response of tailored mechanochromic polymers can be used to detect structural transitions that occur at the nanoscale during assembly. It is shown that at low-charge stoichiometry, electrostatic binding causes individual macromolecules to stretch and stiffen. Remarkably, at stoichiometries close to full charge compensation a gradual transition from single molecular complexes to multimolecular micelles is observed. Moreover, the same macromolecular sensors reveal how the assembly pathways are fully reversible as the binding strength is weakened. These results highlight how mechanochromic polymer sensors can be used to detect the molecular transitions occur during supramolecular structure formation with high precision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1420-1427
Number of pages8
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • complex coacervation
  • conjugated polymers
  • micelles
  • self-assembly


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