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Entropic death of nonpatterned and nanopatterned polyelectrolyte brushes

Menzel, Matthias, Chen, Wei‐Liang, Simancas, Kimberly, Xu, Hong, Prucker, Oswald, Ober, Christopher K., Rühe, Jürgen
Journal of polymer science 2019 v.57 no.12 pp. 1283-1295
atomic force microscopy, electrolytes, liquids, models, polymerization, polymers, salt content, temperature, thermodynamics
The stability of nonpatterned and nanopatterned strong polyelectrolyte brushes (PEBs) is studied as a function of both brush character and the properties of a contacting liquid. High‐molecular‐weight PEBs of poly(4‐methyl vinylpyridinium iodide) (PMeVP) are synthesized using surface‐initiated radical‐chain polymerization. Nanopatterned brushes (NPBs) line with pattern sizes ranging from 50 to 200 nm are generated by patterning the initiator layer using deep‐ultraviolet photolithography followed by brush growth initiated from the patterned layer. Homogeneous PEBs with different degrees of charging and grafting densities are exposed to water and salt solutions with different temperatures for different periods. The degradation is monitored through dry‐state ellipsometry and atomic force microscopy measurements. Enhanced degrafting for more strongly swollen polymer brushes can be observed in agreement with an “entropic spring” model. Based on the results of the nonpatterned brushes, the NPBs are exposed to water at different temperatures and external salt content for varying periods of time. Counterintuitively, the NPBs show increased degrafting for smaller patterns, which is attributed to different polymer chain dynamics for nanobrushes and microbrushes. We investigate the influence of thermodynamic and kinetic parameters on the stability of (nanopatterned) PEBs and discuss the role of entanglements and formation of complexes in such films. © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Polym. Sci., Part A: Polym. Chem. 2019, 57, 1283–1295