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Issue 13, 2018
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Structure and rheology of polyelectrolyte complex coacervates

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Scattering investigations of the structure and chain conformations, and the rheological properties of polyelectrolyte complexes (PECs) comprising model polyelectrolytes are presented. The use of charged polypeptides – (poly)-lysine and (poly)-glutamic acid with identical backbones allowed for facile tuning of the system parameters, including chain length, side-chain functionality, and chirality. Systematic studies using small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) of liquid PEC coacervates revealed a physical description of these materials as strongly screened semidilute polyelectrolyte solutions comprising oppositely charged chains. At the same time, solid PECs were found to be composed of hydrogen-bonding driven stiff ladder-like structures. While the coacervates behaved akin to semidilute polyelectrolyte solutions upon addition of salt, the solids were largely unaffected by it. Rheology measurements of PEC coacervates revealed a terminal relaxation regime, with an unusual plateauing of the storage modulus at low oscillation frequencies. The plateau may be ascribed to a combination of instrumental limitations and the long-range electrostatic interactions contributing to weak energy storage modes. Excellent superposition of the dynamic moduli was achieved by a time-salt superposition. The shift factors, however, varied more strongly than previously reported with added salt concentration.

Graphical abstract: Structure and rheology of polyelectrolyte complex coacervates

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Article information

16 Oct 2017
22 Jan 2018
First published
22 Jan 2018

Soft Matter, 2018,14, 2454-2464
Article type

Structure and rheology of polyelectrolyte complex coacervates

A. B. Marciel, S. Srivastava and M. V. Tirrell, Soft Matter, 2018, 14, 2454
DOI: 10.1039/C7SM02041D

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