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Counterion-Tunable Thermosensitivity of Strong Polyelectrolyte Brushes

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journal contribution
posted on 16.12.2019, 20:09 by Hongtao Cai, Ran Kou, Guangming Liu
In this work, poly­(sodium styrene sulfonate) brushes have been employed as a precursor to prepare thermosensitive strong polyelectrolyte brushes (SPBs) through a counterion exchange strategy. The substitution of hydrophilic Na+ counterions by hydrophobic tetraalkylphosphonium counterions leads to a thermoresponsivity of the SPBs. The thermosensitive properties including hydration, stiffness, and surface water wettability of the SPBs can be modulated by the type of the tetraalkylphosphonium counterions. Nevertheless, the wet thickness of the SPBs with tetraalkylphosphonium counterions does not exhibit an obvious temperature dependency due to the high steric barrier in the crowded environment of SPBs generated by the large tetraalkylphosphonium counterions. The mixtures of small Na+ counterions and large tetraalkylphosphonium counterions are employed to realize the thermosensitive wet thickness without sacrificing other thermoresponsive properties of the SPBs because the mixed counterions can bring both a certain hydrophobicity and some free space to the brushes. This work opens up the opportunities available for the use of counterions to tune the thermosensitivity of SPBs.