Project Details Terminology for self-assembly and aggregation of polymers

Project No.:
Start Date:
01 April 2006
End Date:
01 March 2013
Division Name:
Inorganic Chemistry Division
Division No.:


With nanoscience and nanotechnology underpinning and lending focus to many of the developments in modern functional materials, aggregation and self-assembly in polymers is of growing importance. This project is aimed at proposing a list of terms and definitions to be accepted and respected by chemists and others working as materials scientists within academia and industry.


The physical and chemical properties of aggregated polymers and polymer molecules that spontaneously assemble into ordered structures are more often determined by these macroscopic structures than by the individual polymer molecules from which they are built. Typically, molecules that have assembled into micelles might act as hosts to smaller molecules that are held in place by solvation effects at the micellar core, whilst those that have assembled into vesicles (walled, cell-like structures) can physically encapsulate guest species. Neither of these situations can be attributed to the polymer chain structures except insofar as they might determine the nature of the aggregation or assembly. Self-assembly in liquid crystalline polymers and block copolymers is equally complex and important. An extended terminology is required to describe these macroscopic systems, as already evidenced by the impossibility of writing these introductory sentences without resorting to the use of two such terms. Some terms will be of relatively recent introduction. Other, older terms will be in common usage by physical chemists and some by materials scientists, and perhaps more familiar to such specialists than to polymer scientists. Many of the terms might also be totally unfamiliar to scientists whose background is not rooted in chemistry or material sciences. It is therefore necessary to identify terms specific to aggregation and self-assembly of polymers, and to harmonize and enforce their use by the people active in the field.

The document will consist of a list of terms selected to describe the different aggregated structures and self-assemblies, their methods of formation, their characterisation, and any terminology that is idiosyncratic to the techniques used for their investigation. The definitions will be harmonized for acceptance by the chemistry, polymer and materials communities. To assist in achieving this assent, members of the learned societies of different countries will be consulted to ensure that the definitions are accepted worldwide.


project announcement published in Chem. Int. Sep-Oct 2006

Apr 2012 – A draft of the provisional recommendations is submitted to public review comments until 31 Aug 2012 (provisional recommendations >> ../terminology-for-self-assembly-and-aggregation-of-polymers.html)

Feb 2013 – Terminology for aggregation and self-assembly in polymer science (IUPAC Recommendations 2013) published in Pure Appl. Chem., 2013, Vol. 85, No. 2, pp. 463-492;


project completed

Last updated 7 June 2013