Ion-selective binding as a new trigger for micellization of block copolyelectrolytes with two anionic blocks†
This work presents well-defined and switchable micelles of block copolymers consisting of the two anionic polyelectrolytes sodium polyacrylate (NaPA) and sodium polystyrene sulfonate (NaPSS). Micellization occurs due to the specific binding of Ca2+ to acrylate groups, which results in neutralization of the corresponding block and thereby formation of the hydrophobic core of the micelles. In contrast, the PSS block remains charged and forms the stabilizing shell. Micellization is triggered by variations of the Ca2+ concentration or the temperature and is a fully reversible and repeatable process. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) could unambiguously reveal the structure of the micelles, using a partially deuterated polymer and the contrast variation technique. Considering the variety of metal cations and their broad spectrum of interactions with polyelectrolytes, this new class of like-charged block copolymers opens the door to a broad range of switchable and responsive polyelectrolyte-based systems.