Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

Tuning smart microgel swelling and responsive behavior through strong and weak polyelectrolyte pair assembly.

PMID 22676290


The layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly of polyelectrolyte pairs on temperature and pH-sensitive cross-linked poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-co-(methacrylic acid), poly(NIPAAm-co-MAA), microgels enabled a fine-tuning of the gel swelling and responsive behavior according to the mobility of the assembled polyelectrolyte (PE) pair and the composition of the outermost layer. Microbeads with well-defined morphology were initially prepared by synthesis in supercritical carbon dioxide. Upon LbL assembly of polyelectrolytes, interactions between the multilayers and the soft porous microgel led to differences in swelling and thermoresponsive behavior. For the weak PE pairs, namely poly(L-lysine)/poly(L-glutamic acid) and poly(allylamine hydrochloride)/poly(acrylic acid), polycation-terminated microgels were less swollen and more thermoresponsive than native microgel, whereas polyanion-terminated microgels were more swollen and not significantly responsive to temperature, in a quasi-reversible process with consecutive PE assembly. For the strong PE pair, poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride)/poly(sodium styrene sulfonate), the differences among polycation and polyanion-terminated microgels are not sustained after the first PE bilayer due to extensive ionic cross-linking between the polyelectrolytes. The tendencies across the explored systems became less noteworthy in solutions with larger ionic strength due to overall charge shielding of the polyelectrolytes and microgel. ATR FT-IR studies correlated the swelling and responsive behavior after LbL assembly on the microgels with the extent of H-bonding and alternating charge distribution within the gel. Thus, the proposed LbL strategy may be a simple and flexible way to engineer smart microgels in terms of size, surface chemistry, overall charge and permeability.