Author(s): Boualem Hammouda, Di Jia,and He Cheng
The demixingphasebehavior of Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)(PNIPAM)aqueous solution is investigated using small angle neutron scattering. This polymer phase separates upon heating and demixes around 32âC. The pre-transition temperature range is characterized by two scattering modes;a low-Q(large-scale)signal and a high-Qdissolved chains signal.Inorder to get insight in to this pre-transition region,especially the origin of the low-Q(large-scale)structure,the zero average contrast method is used in order to isolate single-chain conformations even in the demixing polymers transition region. This method consists of measuring deuterated and non-deuterated polymers dissolved in mixtures of deuterated and non-deuterated water for which the polymer scattering length density matches the solvent scattering length density. A ï¬xed 4% polymer mass fraction is used in a contrast variation series where the d-water/h-water fraction is varied in order to determine the match point. The zero average contrast(match point)sample displays pure single-chain scattering with no inter chain contributions. Our measurements prove that the large scale structure in this polymer solution is due to a transient polymer network formed through hydrophobic segment segment interactions. Scattering intensity increases when the temperature gets close to the phase boundary. While the apparent radius of gyration increases substantially at the Lower Critical Solution Temperature(LCST)transition due to strong interchain correlation, the single-chain true radius of gyration has been found to decrease slightly with temperature when approaching the transition.
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