Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 3-25-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Karen L. Wooley


The overall emphasis of this dissertation research included two kinds of asymmetrically-functionalized nanoparticles with anisotropic distributions of chemical functionalities, three degradable polymers synthesized by organocatalyzed ring-opening polymerizations, and two polyphosphoester-based nanoparticle systems for various biomedical applications.

Inspired by the many hierarchical assembly processes that afford complex materials in Nature, the construction of asymmetrically-functionalized nanoparticles with efficient surface chemistries and the directional organization of those building blocks into complex structures have attracted much attention. The first method generated a Janus-faced polymer nanoparticle that presented two orthogonally click-reactive surface chemistries, thiol and azido. This robust method involved reactive functional group transfer by templating against gold nanoparticle substrates. The second method produced nanoparticles with sandwich-like distribution of crown ether functionalities through a stepwise self-assembly process that utilized crown ether-ammonium supramolecular interactions to mediate inter-particle association and the local intra-particle phase separation of unlike hydrophobic polymers.

With the goal to improve the efficiency of the production of degradable polymers with tunable chemical and physical properties, a new type of reactive polyphosphoester was synthesized bearing alkynyl groups by an organocatalyzed ring-opening polymerization, the chemical availability of the alkyne groups was investigated by employing "click" type azide-alkyne Huisgen cycloaddition and thiol-yne radical-mediated reactions. Based on this alkyne-functionalized polyphosphoester polymer and its two available "click" type reactions, two degradable nanoparticle systems were developed. To develop the first system, the well defined poly(ethylene oxide)-block-polyphosphester diblock copolymer was transformed into a multifunctional Paclitaxel drug conjugate by densely attaching the polyphosphoester block with azide-functionalized Paclitaxel by azide-alkyne Huisgen cycloaddition. This Paclitaxel drug conjugate provides a powerful platform for combinational cancer therapy and bioimaging due to its ultra-high Paclitaxel loading: > 65 wt%), high water solubility: >6.2 mg/mL for PTX) and easy functionalization. Another polyphosphoester-based nanoparticle system has been developed by a programmable process for the rapid and facile preparation of a family of nanoparticles with different surface charges and functionalities. The non-ionic, anionic, cationic and zwitterionic nanoparticles with hydrodynamic diameters between 13 nm to 21 nm and great size uniformity could be rapidly prepared from small molecules in 6 h or 2 days. The anionic and zwitterionic nanoparticles were designed to load silver ions to treat pulmonary infections, while the cationic nanoparticles are being applied to regulate lung injuries by serving as a degradable iNOS inhibitor conjugates.

In addition, a direct synthesis of acid-labile polyphosphoramidate by organobase-catalyzed ring-opening polymerization and an improved two-step preparation of polyphosphoester ionomer by acid-assisted cleavage of phosphoramidate bonds on polyphosphoramidate were developed. Polyphosphoramidate and polyphosphoester ionomers may be applied to many applications, due to their unique chemical and physical properties.


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