Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Joong Ho Moon

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Anthony McGoron

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Alexander Mebel

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Kevin O'Shea

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Stanislaw Wnuk

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Conjugated polymers, fluorescence, flexibility

Date of Defense



Conjugated polymers (CPs) are intrinsically fluorescent materials that have been used for various biological applications including imaging, sensing, and delivery of biologically active substances. The synthetic control over flexibility and biodegradability of these materials aids the understanding of the structure-function relationships among the photophysical properties, the self-assembly behaviors of the corresponding conjugated polymer nanoparticles (CPNs), and the cellular behaviors of CPNs, such as toxicity, cellular uptake mechanisms, and sub-cellular localization patterns.

Synthetic approaches towards two classes of flexible CPs with well-preserved fluorescent properties are described. The synthesis of flexible poly(p-phenylenebutadiynylene)s (PPBs) uses competing Sonogashira and Glaser coupling reactions and the differences in monomer reactivity to incorporate a small amount (~10%) of flexible, non-conjugated linkers into the backbone. The reaction conditions provide limited control over the proportion of flexible monomer incorporation. Improved synthetic control was achieved in a series of flexible poly(p-phenyleneethynylene)s (PPEs) using modified Sonogashira conditions. In addition to controlling the degree of flexibility, the linker provides disruption of backbone conjugation that offers control of the length of conjugated segments within the polymer chain. Therefore, such control also results in the modulation of the photophysical properties of the materials.

CPNs fabricated from flexible PPBs are non-toxic to cells, and exhibit subcellular localization patterns clearly different from those observed with non-flexible PPE CPNs. The subcellular localization patterns of the flexible PPEs have not yet been determined, due to the toxicity of the materials, most likely related to the side-chain structure used in this series.

The study of the effect of CP flexibility on self-assembly reorganization upon polyanion complexation is presented. Owing to its high rigidity and hydrophobicity, the PPB backbone undergoes reorganization more readily than PPE. The effects are enhanced in the presence of the flexible linker, which enables more efficient π-π stacking of the aromatic backbone segments. Flexibility has minimal effects on the self-assembly of PPEs. Understanding the role of flexibility on the biophysical behaviors of CPNs is key to the successful development of novel efficient fluorescent therapeutic delivery vehicles.





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