Thermoresponsive polyelectrolytes derived from ionic liquids
Ionic liquid (IL)-based polyelectrolytes (PILs), referred to as polymeric ILs, polymerised ILs, or poly(IL)s are a new subclass of polymer materials. They are distinct from conventional polyelectrolytes due to their unique physico-chemical properties originated from a dense packing of ILs in the macromolecular architecture. Mixtures of PILs and solvents, in particular, water have attracted a great deal of interest especially in terms of their compatibilities depending on temperature, namely, thermoresponsiveness of PIL/solvent mixtures. Apart from static compatibility, such as the compatibility of PILs with solvents, which do not change largely by a temperature change, there are mainly two types of dynamic phase changes, an upper critical solution temperature (UCST)- and a lower critical solution temperature (LCST)-type phase behaviour. Some PILs dissolved in solvents homogenise upon heating; this behaviour is classified as UCST behaviour. On the other hand, only in the last two years have PIL/water mixtures with LCST been discovered. This article summarises rapidly growing studies on the design of thermoresponsive PIL systems with water or organic solvents. The hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity balance of the starting IL monomers features the phase behaviour of the resulting polyelectrolytes, and some IL monomers that show thermoresponsive phase behaviour in solvents were found to maintain their thermoresponsiveness even after the polymerisation. Based on their unique combination of properties derived from an ionic and thermoresponsive nature, these thermoresponsive PILs will attract considerable interest, and their wide applications are expected in the fields of separation, sensing and desalination.