Effects of chain stiffness and salt concentration on responses of polyelectrolyte brushes under external electric field

QQ Cao and CC Zuo and LJ Li and G Yan, BIOMICROFLUIDICS, 5, 044119 (2011).

DOI: 10.1063/1.3672190

We report a molecular dynamics study on non-equilibrium dynamics of polyelectrolyte brushes under external electric fields. In this work, the effects of chain stiffness and salt concentration on static and dynamic responses of the brushes are addressed in detail. Our simulations indicate that varying these parameters induce rich electro- responsive behavior of the brushes. The increase of salt concentration results in the enhancement of an opposite electric field formed by non- equilibrium distribution of cations and anions, which resists stretching or shrinkage of grafted chains. At strong positive electric fields, the flexible brushes are more sensitive to the change of salt concentration. When reversing the electric field, the stiff brushes undergo a conformational transition from collapse to complete stretching. At high salt concentrations, dynamic responsive magnitude of the brush thickness to added electric field is strongly reduced. It was found that the fall time for the stiff brush becomes much shorter than that for the flexible brush. Additionally, increasing ion concentration leads to an excess extension or shrinkage of flexible brushes. For strongly stiff brushes, such phenomenon occurs in the presence or absence of salt. (C) 2011 American Institute of Physics. doi:10.1063/1.3672190

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