pH-responsive diblock copolymer micelles at the silica/aqueous solution interface: Adsorption kinetics and equilibrium studies

Kenichi Sakai, Emelyn G. Smith, Grant B. Webber, Christophe Schatz, Erica J. Wanless, Vural Bütün, Steven P. Armes, Simon Biggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The adsorption behavior of two examples of a weakly basic diblock copolymer, poly(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate)-block-poly(2-(diethylamirio)ethyl methacrylate) (PDMA-PDEA), at the silica/aqueous solution interface has been investigated using a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring and an optical reflectometer. Dynamic and static light scattering measurements have also been carried out to assess aqueous solution properties of such pH-responsive copolymers. In alkaline solution, core-shell micelles are formed above the critical micelle concentration (cmc) by both copolymers, whereas the chains are molecularly dissolved (as unimers) at all concentrations in acidic solution. As a result, the adsorption behavior of PDMA-PDEA diblock copolymers on silica is strongly dependent on both the copolymer concentration and the solution pH. Below the cmc at pH 9, the cationic PDMA-PDEA copolymers adsorb as unimers and the conformation of the adsorbed polymer is essentially flat. At concentrations just above the cmc, the initial adsorption of copolymer onto the silica is dominated by the unimers due to their faster diffusion compared to the much larger micelles. Rearrangement of the adsorbed unimers and/or their subsequent displacement by micelles from solution is then observed during an equilibration period, and the final adsorbed mass is greater than that observed below the cmc. At concentrations well above the cmc, the much higher proportion of micelles in solution facilitates more effective competition for the surface at all stages of the adsorption process and no replacement of initially adsorbed unimers by micelles is evident. However, the adsorbed layer undergoes gradual rearrangement after initial adsorption. This relaxation is believed to result from a combination of further copolymer adsorption and swelling of the adsorbed layer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14744-14753
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


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