Structured lonomer Thin Films at Water Interface: Molecular Dynamics Simulation Insight

D Aryal and A Agrawal and D Perahia and GS Grest, LANGMUIR, 33, 11070-11076 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.7b02485

Controlling the structure and dynamics of thin films of ionizable polymers at water interfaces is critical to their many applications. As the chemical diversity within one polymer is increased, controlling the structure and dynamics of the polymer, which is a key to their use, becomes a challenge. Here molecular dynamics simulations (MD) are used to obtain molecular insight into the structure and dynamics of thin films of one such macromolecule at the interface with water. The polymer consists of an ABCBA topology with randomly sulfonated polystyrene (C), tethered symmetrically to flexible poly(ethylene-r-propylene) blocks (B), and end-capped by apoly(t-butylstyrene) block (A). The compositions of the interfacial and bulk regions of thin films of the ABCBA polymers are followed as a function of exposure time to water. We find that interfacial rearrangements take place where buried ionic segments migrate toward the water interface. The hydrophobic blocks collapse and rearrange to minimize their exposure to water. The water that initially drives interfacial reengagements breaks the ionic clusters within the film, forming a dynamic hydrophilic internal network within the hydrophobic segments.

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