Tuning chain interaction entropy in complex coacervation using polymer stiffness, architecture, and salt valency
Oppositely-charged polyelectrolytes can undergo a liquid–liquid phase separation in a salt solution, resulting in a polymer-dense ‘coacervate’ phase that has found use in a wide range of applications from food science to self-assembled materials. Coacervates can be tuned for specific applications by varying parameters such as salt concentration and valency, polyelectrolyte length, and polyelectrolyte identity. Recent simulation and theory has begun to clarify the role of molecular structure on coacervation phase behavior, especially for common synthetic polyelectrolytes that exhibit high charge densities. In this manuscript, we use a combination of transfer matrix theory and Monte Carlo simulation to understand at a physical level how a range of molecular features, in particular polymer architecture and stiffness, and salt valency can be used to design the phase diagrams of these materials. We demonstrate a physical picture of how the underlying entropy-driven process of complex coacervation is affected by this wide range of physical attributes.
- This article is part of the themed collection: MSDE Emerging Investigators 2018