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Polymers and inorganics: A happy marriage?
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The most recent developments in two areas: (a) synthesis of inorganic particles with control over size and shape by polymer additives, and (b) synthesis of inorganic-polymer hybrid materials by bulk polymerization of blends of monomers with nanosized crystals are reviewed. The precipitations of inorganics, such as zinc oxide or calcium carbonate, in presence and under the control of bishydrophilic block or comb copolymers, are relevant to the field of Biomineralization. The application of surface modified latex particles, used as controlling agents, and the formation of hybrid crystals in which the latex is embedded in otherwise perfect crystals, are discussed. The formation of nano sized spheres of amorphous calcium carbonate, stabilized by surfactant-like polymers, is also discussed. Another method for the preparation of nanosized inorganic functional particles is the controlled pyrolysis of metal salt complexes of poly (acrylic acid), as demonstrated by the syntheses of lithium cobalt oxide and zinc/magnesium oxide. Bulk polymerization of methyl methacrylate blends, with for example, nanosized zinc oxide, revealed that the mechanisms of free radical polymerization respond to the presence of these particles. The termination by radical-radical interaction and the gel effect are suppressed in favor of degenerative transfer, resulting in a polymer with enhanced thermal stability. The optical properties of the resulting polymer-particle blends are addressed based on the basic discussion of the miscibility of polymers and nanosized particles.