Özge Azeri, Dennis Schönfeld, Bin Dai, Uwe Keiderling, Laurence Noirez and Michael Gradzielski
Block copolymers synthesized via Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization from alkyl acrylate and t-butyl acrylate and the subsequent hydrolysis of the t-butyl acrylate to acrylic acid were systematically varied with respect to their hydrophobic part by the variation in the alkyl chain length and the degree of polymerisation in this block. Depending on the architecture of the hydrophobic part, they had a more or less pronounced tendency to form copolymer micelles in an aqueous solution. They were employed for the preparation of IPECs by mixing the copolymer aggregates with the polycations polydiallyldimethylammonium chloride (PDADMAC) or q-chit. The IPEC structure as a function of the composition was investigated by Static Light and Small Angle Neutron Scattering. For weakly-associated block copolymers (short alkyl chain), complexation with polycation led to the formation of globular complexes, while already existing micelles (long alkyl chain) grew further in mass. In general, aggregates became larger upon the addition of further polycation, but this growth was much more pronounced for PDADMAC compared to q-chit, thereby leading to the formation of clusters of aggregates. Accordingly, the structure of such IPECs with a hydrophobic block depended largely on the type of complexing polyelectrolyte, which allowed for controlling the structural organisation via the molecular architecture of the two oppositely charged polyelectrolytes.