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Langmuir. 2005 Jun 21;21(13):6006-18.

Controlled clustering and enhanced stability of polymer-coated magnetic nanoparticles.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


The clustering and stability of magnetic nanoparticles coated with random copolymers of acrylic acid, styrenesulfonic acid, and vinylsulfonic acid has been studied. Clusters larger than 50 nm are formed when the coatings are made using too low or too high molecular weight polymers or using insufficient amounts of polymer. Low-molecular-weight polymers result in thin coatings that do not sufficiently screen van der Waals attractive forces, while high-molecular-weight polymers bridge between particles, and insufficient polymer results in bare patches on the magnetite surface. The stability of the resulting clusters is poor, but when an insufficient polymer is used as primary coating, and a secondary polymer is added to coat remaining bare magnetite, the clusters are stable in high salt concentrations (>5 M NaCl), while retaining the necessary cluster size for efficient magnetic recovery. The magnetite cores were characterized by TEM and vibrating sample magnetometry, while the clusters were characterized by dynamic light scattering. The clustering and stability are interpreted in terms of the particle-particle interaction forces, and the optimal polymer size can be predicted well on the basis of these forces and the solution structure and hydrophobicity of the polymer. The size of aggregates formed by limited polymer can be predicted with a diffusion-limited colloidal aggregation model modified with a sticking probability based on fractional coating of the magnetite cores.

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