Branched copolymer surfactants impart thermoreversible gelation to LAPONITE® gels †

Abhishek Rajbanshi, Marcelo Alves Da Silva, Najet Mahmoudi, Agnieszka Janeczek, Allison Shaw, Jonathan Dawson, Michael Thomas Cook

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This investigation seeks to integrate LAPONITE® clay gels with thermoresponsive branched copolymer surfactants (BCSs) to develop advanced functional materials with temperature-induced sol–gel behaviour. It is known that a diverse range of molecules adsorb strongly to clays which may be used to control liberation of the species in healthcare applications, and as such the development of polymer/clay hybrid materials which can add function to the native clay behaviour are of great interest. BCS were synthesised with a structure that encompasses poly(ethylene glycol)methacrylate (PEGMA), ethylene glycol dimethacrylate (EGDMA), and dodecanethiol (DDT), conferring versatile and tuneable thermoresponsive attributes. Systematic modulation of the monomer : DDT/initiator ratio was used to facilitate the synthesis of BCS architectures spanning a range of molecular weights. Through application of small-amplitude oscillatory shear (SAOS) rheology and small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) in conjunction with controlled temperature variations, the sol–gel transition dynamics of these nanocomposite materials were elucidated. Complementary insights into the mechanisms underpinning this transition and temperature-induced alterations in the constituents are gleaned through the utilization of SANS techniques employing contrast-matching methodologies to mitigate clay and polymer scattering interference. It is found that heating systems from room- to body- temperature induces self-assembly of BCS in the bulk aqueous phase with concurrent structuration of clay in gel-forming samples with lower number average molecular weight (Mn). SANS study unpicks this phenomenon to find that gelation occurs with concurrent aggregation of BCS in the bulk, inducing clay–clay interactions only in lower Mn BCS systems with large nanoaggregates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number1
Early online date28 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2023


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