Small angle neutron scattering was used to measure single chain radii of gyration of end-linked polymer gels before and after cross-linking to calculate the prestrain, which is the ratio of the average chain size in a cross-linked network to that of a free chain in solution. The prestrain increased from 1.06 ± 0.01 to 1.16 ± 0.02 as gel synthesis concentration decreased near the overlap concentration, indicating that the chains are slightly more stretched in the network than in solution. Dilute gels with higher loop fractions were found to be spatially homogeneous. Form factor and volumetric scaling analyses independently confirmed that elastic strands stretch by 2–23% from Gaussian conformations to create a space-spanning network, with increased stretching as network synthesis concentration decreases. Prestrain measurements reported here serve as a point of reference for network theories that rely on this parameter for the calculation of mechanical properties.
Nanoparticle diffusion during gelation of tetra poly(ethylene glycol) provides insight into nanoscale structural evolution
Single particle tracking (SPT) of PEG grafted nanoparticles (NPs) was used to examine the gelation of tetra poly(ethylene glycol) (TPEG) succinimidyl glutarate (TPEG-SG) and amine (TPEG-A) terminated 4-armed stars. As concentration was decreased from 40 to 20 mg mL −1 , the onset of network formation, t gel , determined from rheometry increased from less than 2 to 44 minutes. NP mobility increased as polymer concentration decreased in the sol state, but remained diffusive at times past the t gel determined from rheometry. Once in the gel state, NP mobility decreased, became sub-diffusive, and eventually localized in all concentrations. The NP displacement distributions were investigated to gain insight into the nanoscale environment. In these relatively homogeneous gels, the onset of sub-diffusivity was marked by a rapid increase in dynamic heterogeneity followed by a decrease consistent with a homogeneous network. We propose a gelation mechanism in which clusters initially form a heterogeneous structure which fills in to form a fully gelled relatively homogenous network. This work aims to examine the kinetics of TPEG gelation and the homogeneity of these novel gels on the nanometer scale, which will aid in the implementation of these gels in biomedical or filtration applications.
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Soft Matter
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- 2256 to 2265
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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