Energy Conversion in Polyelectrolyte Hydrogels

A Erbas and MO de la Cruz, ACS MACRO LETTERS, 4, 857-861 (2015).

DOI: 10.1021/acsmacrolett.5b00363

Using extensive molecular dynamics simulations of polyelectrolyte hydrogels we demonstrate that, on deformation, these hydrogels adjust their deformed state predominantly by altering electrostatic interactions between their charged groups rather than excluded-volume and bond energies. On deformation, due to the hydrogel's inherent tendency to preserve electroneutrality in its interior, the translational entropy of counterions decreases and the total electrostatic energy becomes more attractive. This result is valid for a wide range of compression ratios and Bjerrum lengths. The change in the electrostatic energy is more marked in highly swollen gels at low ionic strengths. At high Bjerrum lengths, where most of the counterions are condensed on hydrogel chains and the gel resembles a neutral system, the electrostatic-energy change with deformation is weaker.

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