Effect of the supramolecular interactions on the nanostructure of halloysite/biopolymer hybrids: a comprehensive study by SANS, Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy and Electric Birefringence
The structural properties of halloysite/biopolymer aqueous mixtures were firstly investigated by means of combining different techniques, including Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS), Electric Birefringence (EBR) and Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS). Among the biopolymers, non-ionic hydroxypropylcellulose and polyelectrolytes (anionic alginate and cationic chitosan) were selected. On this basis, the specific supramolecular interactions were correlated to the structural behavior of the halloysite/biopolymer mixtures. SANS data were analyzed in order to investigate the influence of the biopolymer adsorption on the halloysite gyration radius. In addition, a morphological description of the biopolymer coated halloysite nanotubes (HNTs) was obtained by the simulation of SANS curves. EBR experiments evidenced that the orientation dynamics of the nanotubes in the electric field is influenced by the specific interactions with the polymers. Namely, both variations of the polymer charge and/or wrapping mechanisms strongly affected the HNT alignment process and, consequently, the rotational mobility of the nanotubes. FCS measurements with fluorescently labeled biopolymers allowed to study the aqueous dynamic behavior of ionic biopolymers after their adsorption onto the HNT surfaces. The combination of EBR and FCS results revealed that the adsorption process reduces the mobility in water of both components. These effects are strongly enhanced by HNT/polyelectrolytes electrostatic interactions and wrapping processes occurring in the halloysite/chitosan mixture. The attained findings can be useful for designing halloysite/polymer hybrids with controlled structural properties.