Tunable LCST behavior of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide/ionic liquid) copolymers
Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), PNIPAM, is a thermoresponsive polymer widely known for its lower critical solution temperature (LCST) phenomenon at 32 °C in aqueous solutions. Precise tuning of the LCST of PNIPAM to a broader temperature range offers a larger window of applications especially in the field of biotechnology and nanotechnology. A series of free radical random copolymerizations between N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAM) and various imidazolium based ionic liquids (ILs) were conducted. IL structures were varied in terms of their alkyl chain length at the N-3 (or N-1) position of the imidazolium ring and counter anion. The LCST behavior of the aqueous solutions of the copolymers was investigated through UV-VIS transmission measurements. The results confirm that introduction of IL into the PNIPAM offers a wide range of LCST behaviors with a synergism between the hydrophobic part of the ionic liquid and the basic strength of the counter anion, probably by varying the hydrogen bonding abilities of the copolymer.