Evaporation-Induced Polyelectrolyte Complexation: The Role of Base Volatility and Cosolvents

Jiaying Li, Martijn Hans Paul de Heer Kloots, Gerard van Ewijk, Derk Jan van Dijken, Wiebe M. de Vos, Jasper van der Gucht*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Film formation is a vital step for coating applications where a homogeneous, defect-free solid phase should be obtained, starting from a liquid casting formulation. Recently, an alternative waterborne-coating approach was proposed, based on the formation of a polyelectrolyte complex film. In this approach, an evaporating base induces a pH change during drying that initiates the complexation of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes, followed by further densification. In previous studies, ammonia was used as the evaporative base, leading to relatively fast evaporation and resulting in films showing significant brittleness, which tended to crack at low relative humidity or larger thicknesses. We hypothesize that slower complexation and/or evaporation can reduce the problematic stress build-up in the prepared polyelectrolyte complex coatings. For this reason, we studied the changes in the film formation process when there are different bases and cosolvents. We found that reducing the evaporation rate by changing ammonia to the slower evaporating dimethylamine or by adding DMSO as a cosolvent, led to less internal stress build-up during film formation, which could be beneficial for film application. Indeed, films prepared with ammonia showed cracking after 1 h, while films prepared with dimethylamine only showed cracking after one month. The fast evaporation of ammonia was also found to cause a temporary turbid phase, indicating phase separation, while for the slower evaporating bases, this did not occur. All prepared films remained sensitive to humidity, which poses the next challenge for these promising coatings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2531–2542
Number of pages12
Issue number5
Early online date23 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2024


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