Polymer, Vol.60, 164-175, 2015
Influence of topology of LCST-based graft copolymers on responsive assembling in aqueous media
This work, based on structure/properties relationships of associating polymers, aims to investigate the role of topology in the self-assembling behavior of responsive graft copolymers. For that purpose, two graft copolymers with inverse topologies were prepared with similar amounts of water-soluble chains (poly(N,N-dimethylacrylamide) = PDMA) and LCST polymer chains (poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) = PNIPA). In pure water, and above 3 wt%, PNIPA-g-PDMA and PDMA-g-PNIPA exhibit very similar macroscopic properties with a sol/gel transition above 35 degrees C related to the microphase separation of PNIPA sequences. From complementary experiments, performed by DSC, H-1 NMR and small angle neutron scattering, we show that the phase transition of PNIPA is more abrupt when NIPA units are located within the backbone, compared to side-chains. Nevertheless, well above their transition temperature, the two copolymers display very similar bicontinuous structures where PNIPA sequences self aggregate into concentrated percolating domains (about 70 wt% at 60 degrees C) characterized by a frozen dynamics. On the other hand, when salt or surfactant molecules are added into unentangled semi-dilute aqueous solution, the PNIPA-g-PDMA sample does not percolate anymore above the transition temperature while PDMA-g-PNIPA still demonstrate thermothickening properties that are correlated to the ability of water-soluble PDMA chains to bridge PNIPA aggregates. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.