The structures could eventually be used in drug-delivery systems. They would be especially appropriate for applications that require different chemicals to be delivered to the same place at the same time in precise proportions.
The key to making the compartmented structures is putting together molecules that frustrate each other. The structures are made from three highly incompatible polymer components-a hydrocarbon and a fluorocarbon, which are hydrophobic, and polyethylene oxide, which is water-soluble.
The components are connected in the geometry of a three-armed star; in water, multiple stars self-assemble into multi-compartment structures. Depending on the length of the polyethylene oxide molecule, the resulting structures are either individual, nested compartments or long and worm-like with segmented cores.
The hydrocarbon and fluorocarbon components form the core of the structure, so that they are protected from water by the polyethylene oxide. Units of the fluorocarbon are surrounded by the hydrocarbon, and stacks of these encapsulated units are encased in the polyethylene oxide.
The nanostructures could be used in practical applications in two to five years, according to the researchers. Their work was featured in the October 1, 2004, issue of Science.
For further information, please contact the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Technion City, Haifa 32000, Israel; Tel: 972-4-829-2111; E-mail (general information): firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: www.technion.ac.il
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