Covalent Layer-by-Layer Synthesis of Responsive Porous Filters
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Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM), a temperature responsive polymer, undergoes a phase change at a lower critical solution temperature (LCST) in aqueous solutions. For PNIPAM this temperature is 32 °C in water. Below the LCST, the polymer is readily solvated by water. As the temperature of the solution increases, the polymer undergoes a phase transition so that above the LCST it is no longer water soluble. The LCST of PNIPAM may be changed by the addition of salt solutions from the Hofmeister series which will follow the Hofmeister effect for salting-in and salting-out the polymer. Temperature responsive polymers may be grafted to a surface in a variety of methods to create responsive thin films that exhibit a change in wettability. The surface wettability is directly related to the polymers ability to be solvated in its coil conformation. When PNIPAM is grafted to a surface, the surface becomes alternatively hydrophobic and hydrophilic in response to both temperature and the anions in the Hofmeister series which take the surface either above or below the LCST of PNIPAM. The synthesis of responsive nanocomposite grafts was successfully applied to glass slides and three-dimensional surfaces, porous glass frits which were capable of controlling the passive flow rate. The nanocomposite graft was assembled in a covalent layer-by-layer approach to create more chemically robust surfaces, and also to incorporate nanoparticles into the graft for increased surface roughness and therefore improve wettability response. Because of a much greater inherent roughness to a glass frit, characterization of the polymers and nanoparticles was performed before they were covalently bound to the surface. The final product, a functionalized frit with a PNIPAM/SiO2 nanocomposite graft, was analyzed by observing changes in the passive permeation rate of the frit between water and salt solutions. These changes in flow were indicative of the surface bound PNIPAM changing between its hydrophilic and hydrophobic conformation in response to water and concentrations of kosmotropic salts such as sodium sulfate and sodium citrate. In addition to the solute response, the frit was also determined to be responsive to temperature and concentration. Water exhibited a passive flow rate 1000 times faster than a kosmotropic salt but had a similar flow rate to that a chaotropic salt. By measuring the flow rate of 0.5 M Na2SO4 at ~7 °C in a cold room and at room temperature it was observed that sodium sulfate in the cold room passed through the frit at a rate 100 times faster than at room temperature. Because of the hysteresis of PNIPAM documented in literature, washing procedures were kept consistent between experiments to achieve more reproducible results. It was concluded that the frits were temperature responsive and had relative standard deviations below 25 percent for flow rates on a single frit. However, standard deviations of flow rates between frits were higher. This was likely due to a combination of factors, such as the frits’ pore size range of 10 μm resulting in the possibility of varied degrees of functionalization of each frit.
Allen, Ainsley Larue (2011). Covalent Layer-by-Layer Synthesis of Responsive Porous Filters. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from