Logo JG-Universität MainzProf. Dr. Axel Müller


PhD Thesis

Star-shaped Polyelectrolytes

Felix A. Plamper (02/2004-07/2007)

Support: Axel H. E. Müller


Star-shaped polyelectrolytes were prepared by means of atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) utilizing the core-first approach. Star-shaped poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) with 5, 8 and 21 arms and different arm lengths was prepared via the corresponding poly(tert-butyl acrylate) (PtBA) precursors having a glucose, saccharose or beta-cyclodextrin core. Adopting the attempt for preparation of PAA we used the same scaffolds for the preparation of star-shaped poly(dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate) (PDMAEMA). It is a weak cationic polyelectrolyte and it can be easily transformed to a strong one by quantitative quaternization (with methyl iodide) leading to poly{[2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl] trimethylammonium iodide}, PMETAI). In order to reach high arm number a novel, hybrid silsesquioxane initiator with 58 initiation sites was introduced.
The solution behavior of the obtained PAA stars was analyzed. Potentiometric titrations indicate a decrease of PAA’s acidity when increasing the arm number whereas a slight increase of the acidity was observed when increasing the molecular weight by increasing the length of the arms at constant arm number. The results are explained by the higher segment density of samples with short arms and high arm numbers, leading to a pronounced osmotic pressure inside the stars due to the presence of counterions. The osmotic pressure opposes further deprotonation, resulting in a decreased acidity. The osmotic coefficient decreases with increasing arm number, indicating higher counterion confinement within structures with higher branching. The use of strong polyelectrolytes facilitates the determination of the osmotic coefficient. It was seen directly that increasing arm numbers and decreasing arm lengths lead to a decrease of the osmotic coefficient. The osmotic coefficients of the investigated stars are in the range from 0.03 to 0.13, indicating the strong counterion confinement. Theory and experiment meet in the same order of magnitude. However the concentration dependence predicted by theory is not rendered by the experiment.
The size of PMETAI stars in solution was investigated by dynamic light scattering (DLS), showing the expected collapse of the stars with increasing ionic strength. Electrostatic and osmotic screening leads to a retraction of the originally stretched arms, when no additional salt is present. However ion-specific effects lead to a more pronounced shrinkage when sodium chloride was exchanged with sodium iodide.
The considerable osmotic pressure inside the star helps to incorporate multivalent counterions. The ion exchange reduces the number of counterions within the star, simultaneously increasing the translatory entropy of all counterions, since a multiple number of monovalent counterions is released into bulk for one multivalent counterion, which has been incorporated. The ion exchange leads to a decrease in osmotic pressure inside the star, reducing the strong stretching of the polymer’s arms, as seen by DLS. The collapse is more pronounced for counterions of higher valency. The switching of the counterion’s charge can therefore lead to smart polyelectrolytes. This was seen for the trivalent, light-sensitive hexacyanocobaltate(III), which by UV illumination transforms to a divalent counterion. Simultanously the hydrodynamic radius increases upon irradiation.
Finally the thermoresponsive properties of aqueous solutions of star-shaped PDMAEMA were investigated. PDMAEMA is both pH-sensitive as temperature-sensitive, showing a miscibility gap at higher temperatures (LCST behavior). PDMAEMA shows a typical Flory-Huggins behavior irrespective to polymers architecture at high pH (in buffer), where it is virtually uncharged. Charge density starts to account for the deviations from ideal Flory-Huggins behavior at intermediate pH. The presence of multivalent ions leads in buffered solutions of PDMAEMA to the appearance of a miscibility gap at low temperatures (UCST behavior). In salt-free solutions the electrostatic stabilization is especially pronounced for polymers with high arm numbers (having higher charge density). No macroscopic demixing was observed for polymers with more than 9 arms.

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