Smart membranes by electron beam cross-linking of copolymer microgels†
Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAM) based copolymer microgels were used to create free-standing, transferable, thermoresponsive membranes. The microgels were synthesized by copolymerization of NIPAM with N-benzylhydrylacrylamide (NBHAM). Monolayers of these colloidal gels were subsequently cross-linked using an electron gun leading to the formation of a connected monolayer. Furthermore, the cross-linked microgel layer is detached from the supporting material by dissolving the substrate. These unique systems can be used as transferable, thermoresponsive coatings and as thermoresponsive membranes. As a proof of principle for the use of such membranes we studied the ion transport through them at different temperatures revealing drastic changes when the lower critical solution temperature of the copolymer microgels is reached.