Author(s): Eskilsson K, Tiberg F
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Abstract We report on the adsorption of a series of poly(ethylene oxide)-polytetrahydrofuran-poly(ethylene oxide) copolymers, EOn/2THFmEOn/2, at hydrophilic silica surfaces and relate our findings to the corresponding behavior at hydrophobic surfaces. The adsorption of these copolymers is similar to that of poly(ethylene oxide) homopolymers at low bulk concentrations. However, the copolymer adsorption increases strongly above a certain threshold concentration. This increase, which begins more than 1 order of magnitude below the critical micellar concentration (cmc), is related to the concomitant formation of micellar-like structures at the hydrophilic surfaces. We show in this work that a commercial (ethylene oxide-propylene oxide-ethylene oxide) triblock copolymer, Pluronic F127, exhibits a similar behavior at silica. Due to surface aggregation, much thicker layers are measured on silica than at the hydrophobic surface, where the adsorption results in the formation of a monolayer structure. The adsorbed amount and layer thickness measured on bare silica tend to decrease when the bulk concentration is raised above the cmc. We infer that this is due to changes of the molecular weight distribution and relative block sizes of the copolymers in the surface aggregates, i.e., a polydispersity effect. This study also covers some aspects of the adsorption and desorption kinetics exhibited by the copolymers at silica. As is common for adsorbing polymers, the concentration dependent adsorption process is generally observed to be much faster than the desorption process. The adsorption process is in parts diffusion controlled but overall to a complex to be fully analyzed. During adsorption from solutions with bulk concentrations exceeding the cmc, a clear overshoot of the surface excess is observed after intermediate adsorption times. Again, this is interpreted as being due to polydispersity. Finally, after an initial rapid desorption regime, the surface excess exhibits a logarithmic decay with time during desorption.
This article was published in Macromolecules
and referenced in Journal of Membrane Science & Technology