Equilibration of Micelle-Polyelectrolyte Complexes: Mechanistic Differences between Static and Annealed Charge Distributions

JE Laaser and M McGovern and YM Jiang and E Lohmann and TM Reineke and DC Morse and KD Dorfman and TP Lodge, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 121, 4631-4641 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.7b01953

The role of charge density and charge annealing in polyelectrolyte complexation,was investigated through systematic comparison of two micelle-polyelectrolyte systems. First, poly(dim ethylamino ahyl, methacrylate)-block-poly-(styrene) (PDMAEMA-b-PS) micelles were complexed with poly(styrenesulfonate) (PSS) at pH values above and below the pK(a) of PDMAE,MA. to investigate the role of charge annealing hi the complexation process. Second, complexes of poly(DMAEMA-stat- oliga(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate)-block-poly(styrene) (P (DMAEMA-stat-OEGMA)-b-PS) micelles with the same PSS at low pH were used to investigate how the complexation process differs when the charged sites are in fixed positions along the polymer chains. Characterization by turbidimetric titration, dynamic light scattering, and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy reveals that whether or not the charge distribution can rearrange during the complexation process significantly affects the structure and stability of the complexes. In complexes of PDMAEMA-b-PS micelles at elevated pH, in which the charge distributions can anneal, the charge sites redistribute-along the corona chains upon complexation to favor more fully ion-paired configurations. This promotes rapid rearrangement to single-micelle species when the micelles are in excess but traps complexes formed with PSS in excess. In complexes with static charge distributions introduced by copolymerization of DMAEMA with neutral OEGMA monomers, on the other hand, the opposite is true: in this case, reducing the charge density promotes rearrangement to single-micelle complexes only when the polyanion is in excess. Molecular dynamics simulations show that disruption of the charge density in the corona brush reduces the barrier to rearrangement of individual ion pairs; suggesting that the inability of the brush to rearrange to form fully ion-paired complexes fundamentally alters the kinetics of complex formation and equilibration.

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