Aqueous solution behavior of thermosensitive (N-isopropylacrylamide-acrylic acid-ethyl methacrylate) terpolymers

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A series of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAM)-acrylic acid-ethyl methacrylate terpolymers with varied monomer compositions was prepared by radical polymerization. The solution behavior of these polymers was studied in dilute aqueous solution using spectrophotometry, fluorescence spectroscopy and high-sensitivity differential scanning calorimetry. The results obtained revealed that the lower critical solution temperatures depend strongly on the copolymer composition, solution pH and ionic strength. At a high pH, the ionization of acrylic acid (AA) units leads to an increase in solution cloud points (T-c). Solutions of polymers containing 10% or less of AA display a constant T-c for pH above 5.5, with 15% there is a continuous increase in T-c with pH and, for higher AA contents, no clouding was observed within the studied temperature range. Fluorescence probe studies were conducted by following the I (1)/I (3) ratio of pyrene vibronic bands and the emission of anilinonaphtalene sulfonic acid, sodium salt (ANS), both approaches revealing the existence of hydrophobic domains for polymers with higher ethyl methacrylate content at temperatures lower than T-c, suggesting some extent of aggregation and/or a coil-to-globule transition. Scanning calorimetry measurements showed an endothermic transition at temperatures agreeing with the previously detected cloud points. Moreover, the transition curves became broader and with a smaller transition enthalpy, as both the AA content and the solution pH were increased. These broader transitions were interpreted to be the result of a wider molecular distribution upon polymer ionization, hence, displaying varied solution properties. The decrease in transition enthalpy was rationalized as a consequence of reminiscent hydration of NIPAM units, even after phase separation, owing to the presence of electric charges along the polymer chain.



N-isopropylacrylamide, thermosensitive polymers, pH sensitive, cloud point

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Colloid and Polymer Science. New York: Springer, v. 283, n. 6, p. 662-670, 2005.