Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry
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Self-immolative polymers (SIPs) undergo depolymerization in response to the cleavage of stimuli-responsive end-caps from their termini. Some classes of SIPs, including polycarbamates, have depolymerization rates that depend on environmental factors such as solvent and pH. In previous work, hydrophobic SIPs have been incorporated into amphiphilic block copolymers and used to prepare nanoassemblies. However, stimuli-responsive hydrophilic blocks have not previously been incorporated. In the current work, we synthesized amphiphilic copolymers composed of a hydrophobic polycarbamate SIP block and a hydrophilic poly(2-dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate) (PDMAEMA) block connected by a UV light-responsive linker end-cap. It was hypothesized that after assembly of the block copolymers into nanoparticles, chain collapse of the PDMAEMA above its lower critical solution temperature (LCST) might change the environment of the SIP block, thereby altering its depolymerization rate. Self-assembly of the block copolymers was performed, and the depolymerization of the resulting assemblies was studied by fluorescence spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering, and NMR spectroscopy. At 20 °C, the system exhibited a selective response to the UV light. At 65 °C, above the LCST of PDMAEMA, the systems underwent more rapid depolymerization, suggesting that the increase in rate arising from the higher temperature dominated over environmental effects arising from chain collapse.