Synthesis and Characterization of Poly(methyl methacrylate)/Casein Nanoparticles with a Well-Defined Core-Shell Structure

Junmin Zhu, Pei Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Well-defined, core-shell poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)/casein nanoparticles, ranging from 80 to 130 nm in diameter, were prepared via a direct graft copolymerization of methyl methacrylate (MMA) from casein. The polymerization was induced by a small amount of alkyl hydroperoxide (ROOH) in water at 80 °C. Free radicals on the amino groups of casein and alkoxy radicals were generated concurrently, which initiated the graft copolymerization and homopolymerization of MMA, respectively. The presence of casein micelles promoted the emulsion polymerization of the monomer and provided particle stability. The conversion and grafting efficiency of the monomer strongly depended on the type of radical initiator, ROOH concentration, casein to MMA ratio, and reaction temperature. The graft copolymers and homopolymer of PMMA were isolated and characterized with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and differential scanning calorimetry. The molecular weight determination of both the grafted and homopolymer of PMMA suggested that the graft copolymerization and homopolymerization of MMA proceeded at a similar rate. The transmission electron microscopic image of the nanoparticles clearly showed a well-defined core-shell morphology, where PMMA cores were coated with casein shells. The casein shells were further confirmed with a zeta-potential measurement. Finally, this synthetic method allowed us to prepare PMMA/casein nanoparticles with a solid content of up to 31%. Thus, our new process is commercially viable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3346-3353
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2003


  • Alkyl hydroperoxide
  • Casein
  • Core-shell nanoparticles
  • Poly(methyl methacrylate)
  • Tert-butyl hydroperoxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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