Electrostatic Swelling Transitions in Surface-Bound Microgels

Lina Nystrom, Ruben Alvarez-Ascencio, Goran Frenning, Brian Saunders, Mark W. Rutland, Martin Malmsten

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    Herein, electrostatic swelling transitions of poly(ethyl acrylate-co-methacrylic acid) microgels covalently bound to silica surfaces are investigated. Confined at a solid surface, microgel swelling is anisotropically hindered and the structure is flattened to an extent dictated by pH and microgel composition. Microgel deformation under applied load is also shown to depend on microgel charge density, with the highest deformation observed at intermediate charge densities. Two modes of microgel deformation under load were observed, one elastic and one viscoelastic, related to polymer strand deformation and displacement of trapped water, respectively. Results on polymer strand dynamics reveal that the microgels are highly dynamic, as the number of strand-tip interaction points increases 4-fold during a 10 s contact time. Furthermore, finite element modeling captures these effects qualitatively and shows that stress propagation in the microgel network decays locally at the rim of contact with a solid interface or close to the tip probe. Taken together, the results demonstrate a delicate interplay between the surface and microgel which determines the structure and nanomechanical properties of the latter and needs to be controlled in applications of systems such as pH-responsive surface coatings in biomaterials.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
    Issue number40
    Early online date20 Sept 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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