Polymer conformation in nanoscopic soft confinement†
We study the conformation of a polymer (polyethylene glycol) in a nanoscopic soft confinement with attractive walls. The polymer is added to a water-in-oil microemulsion based on the deuterated anionic surfactant AOT, d-octane and D2O. Three different droplet sizes and up to three polymers per droplet are investigated with small angle scattering combining X-rays and neutrons. This allows determining the confinement size and polymer conformation on identical samples. Whereas polymer conformation in bulk is found to be well described with the model of a Gaussian coil its radius of gyration is drastically increased in the droplet. At the same time it is compressed on a local scale. This supports the picture of a polymer strongly adsorbed on the surfactant layer with a thickness of several Angstroms.