Interpolyelectrolyte Complexes of Polycationic Micelles and Linear Polyanions: Structural Stability and Temporal Evolution

Jennifer E. Laaser, Yaming Jiang, Shannon R. Petersen, Theresa M. Reineke, Timothy P. Lodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The complexation of poly(dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate)-block-poly(styrene) micelles with poly(styrenesulfonate) homopolymers was investigated in aqueous buffer at pH 4.5 as a function of ionic strength. The complexation process was monitored by turbidimetric titration, and the structure and stability of the complexes were assessed by dynamic light scattering (DLS), cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryoTEM), and small-angle X-ray scattering. When complexes were formed by slow titration of one polyelectrolyte solution into the other, soluble complexes could be formed with either polyelectrolyte in excess as long as the mixture did not pass through the charge-neutral point. The initial complexes exhibited bimodal size distributions by DLS, with one population similar in size to or slightly smaller than the bare micelles, and the other significantly larger. The former correspond to individual micelles with complexed polyelectrolytes leading to a contracted corona; the latter reflect multimicelle aggregates that were directly observed by cryoTEM. At low ionic strength (e.g., 10 mM), these aggregates were stable on weeks-to-months time scales, but at high ionic strength (e.g., 500 mM), the aggregates rapidly annealed toward structures whose size and solubility depended on which polyelectrolyte was present in excess. These results are discussed in terms of the kinetics and thermodynamics of the polyelectrolyte complexation process and allow a detailed description of the interplay between kinetic and thermodynamic factors in this system. This work will inform design of polyelectrolyte complexes with tunable structure and stability for future applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15919-15928
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 31 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the National Science Foundation through the University of Minnesota Materials Science Research and Engineering Center (DMR-1420013). Parts of this work were carried out in the College of Science & Engineering Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program. J.E.L. was supported in part by a fellowship through the L''Ore?al For Women in Science Postdoctoral Fellowship program. Portions of this work were also performed at the DuPont-Northwestern-Dow Collaborative Access Team (DND-CAT) located at Sector 5 of the Advanced Photon Source (APS). DND-CAT is supported by Northwestern University, E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., and The Dow Chemical Company. This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, aU.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC02-06CH11357. Data was collected using an instrument funded by the National Science Foundation under Award 0960140.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Chemical Society.

How much support was provided by MRSEC?

  • Primary

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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