Hydrophobic−Electrostatic Balance Driving the LCST Offset Aggregation−Redissolution Behavior of N-Alkylacrylamide-Based Ionic Terpolymers

Paula M. López-Pérez, Ricardo M. P. da Silva, Iva Pashkuleva, Francisco Parra, Rui L. Reis, Julio San Roman

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25 Citations (Scopus)


A series of random terpolymers composed of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAAm), 2-acrylamido-2-methyl-1-propanesulfonic acid (AMPS), and N-tert-butylacrylamide (NTBAAm) monomers were synthesized by free radical polymerization. The molar fraction of the negatively charged monomer (AMPS) was maintained constant (0.05) for all studied terpolymer compositions. Turbidity measurements were used to evaluate the influence of the relative amount of NIPAAm and NTBAAm, polymer concentration, and solution ionic strength on the cloud point and redissolution temperatures (macroscopic phase separation). Dynamic light scattering (DLS) was employed to elucidate some aspects regarding the molecular scale mechanism of the temperature-induced phase separation and to determine the low critical solution temperature (LCST). The aqueous solutions of terpolymers remained clear at all studied temperatures; turbidity was only observed in the presence of NaCl. The cloud point temperature (CPT) determined by turbidimetry was found to be systematically much higher than the LCST determined by DLS; nanosized aggregates were observed at temperatures between the LCST and the CPT. Both CPT and LCST decreased when increasing the molar ratio of NTBAAm (increased hydrophobicity). It was found that above a critical molar fraction of NTBAAm (0.25?0.30) the aggregation rate suddenly decreased. Polymers with NTBAAm content lower than 0.25 showed a fast macroscopic phase separation, but the formed large aggregates are disaggregating during the cooling ramp at temperatures still higher than the LCST. On the contrary, polymers with NTBAAm contents above 0.30 showed a slow macroscopic phase separation, and the formed large aggregates only redissolved when LCST was reached. These differences were explained on the basis of a delicate balance between the electrostatic repulsion and the hydrophobic attractive forces, which contribute cooperatively to the formation of metastable nanosized aggregates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5934-5941
Number of pages8
Issue number8
Early online date8 Dec 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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