Interplay of Composition, pH, and Temperature on the Conformation of Multi-stimulus-responsive Copolymer Brushes: Comparison of Experiment and Theory

Edwin C. Johnson, Joshua D. Willott, Wiebe M. de Vos, Erica J. Wanless, Grant B. Webber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Poly(2-(2-methoxyethoxy)ethyl methacrylate) (PMEO2MA), a thermoresponsive polymer with a lower critical solution temperature of ∼28 °C, and poly(2-(diethylamino)ethyl methacrylate) (PDEA), a weak polybase with an apparent pKa of ∼7.5, have been statistically copolymerized using activators continuously regenerated via electron transfer atom transfer radical polymerization to form multi-stimulus-responsive polymer brushes. The stimulus-responsive behavior of these brushes has been investigated with ellipsometry and numerical self-consistent field (nSCF) theory. The pH- and thermoresponsive behaviors of a PDEA homopolymer brush were investigated experimentally in order to benchmark the nSCF theory calculations. nSCF theory was able to reproduce the responsive behavior of PDEA and PMEO2MA homopolymer brushes. Three copolymer compositions (90:10, 70:30, and 50:50 mol % MEO2MA:DEA) were investigated experimentally with pH ramps performed at low and high temperatures and temperature ramps performed at low and high pH. A broader range of compositions were investigated with nSCF theory and compared to the experimental results, with the nSCF calculations able to capture the general behavior of the homopolymer and copolymer brushes. The responsive behavior of each brush to a given stimulus (temperature or pH) was dependent on both the polymer composition and environment (temperature or pH). The influence of pH on the brush increased with higher DEA mol % with a copolymer brush response transitioning from temperature-dominant to pH-dominant. The temperature response of PMEO2MA was completely masked at low and high pH values by the presence of at least 30 mol % polybase in the copolymer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5765-5777
Number of pages13
JournalLangmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids
Volume36
Issue number21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2020

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