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Xunda Feng1 Kohsuke Kawabata2 Chinedum Osuji1

1, Yale Univ, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
2, Tohoku University, Sendai, , Japan

There is longstanding interest in the production of polymeric materials from renewable feedstocks such as vegetable oils and their fatty acids derivatives. However, functional nanostructured polymers produced from these materials have been rarely reported. Here, we present a novel strategy of template-assisted self-assembly to fabricate ordered polymeric structures from sustainably derived species. Structure-directing molecules are employed to template the assembly of plant-derived fatty acids into highly ordered columnar (Col) or lamellar liquid crystals (LCs). We systematically study the thermotropic behaviors of the Col and lamellar phases, respectively, and the physics involved in their macroscopic alignment. The aligned Col or lamellar LCs can be robustly crosslinked to retain the original LC morphologies by photo-initiated polymerization. We demonstrate the high fidelity retention of highly ordered nanostructured morphologies in the resultant polymers by characterizations using X-ray scattering, transmission electron microscopy, and atomic microscopy. We also show that the aligned Col structures can be utilized for applications in high-performance nanofiltration membranes whereas the ordered lamellar structures provide a path to scalable fabrication of polymer nanosheets.

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