Effect of the zwitterion structure on the thermo-responsive behaviour of poly(sulfobetaine methacrylates)†
A series of new sulfobetaine methacrylates, including nitrogen-containing saturated heterocycles, was synthesised by systematically varying the substituents of the zwitterionic group. Radical polymerisation via the RAFT (reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer) method in trifluoroethanol proceeded smoothly and was well controlled, yielding polymers with predictable molar masses. Molar mass analysis and control of the end-group fidelity were facilitated by end-group labeling with a fluorescent dye. The polymers showed distinct thermo-responsive behaviour of the UCST (upper critical solution temperature) type in an aqueous solution, which could not be simply correlated to their molecular structure via an incremental analysis of the hydrophilic and hydrophobic elements incorporated within them. Increasing the spacer length separating the ammonium and the sulfonate groups of the zwitterion moiety from three to four carbons increased the phase transition temperatures markedly, whereas increasing the length of the spacer separating the ammonium group and the carboxylate ester group on the backbone from two to three carbons provoked the opposite effect. Moreover, the phase transition temperatures of the analogous polyzwitterions decreased in the order dimethylammonio > morpholinio > piperidinio alkanesulfonates. In addition to the basic effect of the polymers’ precise molecular structure, the concentration and the molar mass dependence of the phase transition temperatures were studied. Furthermore, we investigated the influence of added low molar mass salts on the aqueous-phase behaviour for sodium chloride and sodium bromide as well as sodium and ammonium sulfate. The strong effects evolved in a complex way with the salt concentration. The strength of these effects depended on the nature of the anion added, increasing in the order sulfate < chloride < bromide, thus following the empirical Hofmeister series. In contrast, no significant differences were observed when changing the cation, i.e. when adding sodium or ammonium sulfate.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Stimulus-responsive polymers