Polyelectrolytes : Bottle-Brush Architectures and Association with Surfactants

Abstract: This thesis has the dual purpose of raising awareness of the importance of the mixing protocol on the end products of polyelectrolyte-oppositely charged surfactant systems, and to contribute to a better understanding of the properties of bottle-brush polyelectrolytes when adsorbed onto interfaces. In the first part of this thesis work, the effects of the mixing protocol and the mixing procedure on formed polyelectrolyte-oppositely charged surfactant aggregates were investigated. It was shown that the initial properties of the aggregates were highly dependent on the mixing parameters, and that the difference between the resulting aggregates persisted for long periods of time. The second part of the studies was devoted to the surface properties of a series of bottle-brush polyelectrolytes made of charged segments and segments bearing poly(ethylene oxide) side chains; particular attention was paid to the effect of side chain to charge density ratio of the polyelectrolytes. It was shown that the adsorbed mass of the polyelectrolytes, and the corresponding number of poly(ethylene oxide) bearing segments at the interface, went through a maximum as the charge density of the polyelectrolyte was increased. Also, it was found that bottle-brush polyelectrolyte layers were desorbed quite easily when subjected to salt solutions. This observation was rationalized by the unfavourable excluded volume interactions between the side chains and the entropic penalty of confining them at an interface, which weaken the strength of the binding of the polyelectrolytes to the interface. However, it was shown that the same side chains effectively protect the adsorbed layer against desorption when the layer is exposed to solutions containing an oppositely charged surfactant. Investigation of the lubrication properties of the bottle-brush polyelectrolytes in an asymmetric (mica-silica) system also related the observed favourable frictional properties to the protective nature of the side chains. The decisive factor for achieving very low coefficients of friction was found to be the concentration of the side chains in the gap between the surfaces. Interestingly, it was shown that a brush-like conformation of the bottle-brush polyelectrolyte at the interface has little effect on achieving favourable lubrication properties. However, a brush-like conformation is vital for the resilience of the adsorbed layer against the competitive adsorption of species with a higher surface affinity.