Effect of Solvent-Matrix Interactions on Structures and Mechanical Properties of Micelle-Crosslinked Gels
ABSTRACT: Previous studies on hydrogels crosslinked by acrylated PEO99-PPO65-PEO99 triblock copolymer (F127DA) micelles demonstrate outstanding strength and toughness, which is attributed to the efficient energy dissipation through the hydrophobic association in the micelles. The current study further focuses on how the solvent property affects the structures and the mechanical properties of F127DA micelle crosslinked PAAm gels. Binary solvents comprised of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and water are used to adjust the polymer/solvent interactions, which consequently tune the conformations of the polymer chains in the network. The presence of DMSO significantly decreases the strength but increased the stretchability of the gels, whereas the overall tensile toughness remained unchanged. In situ small angle X-ray scattering measurements reveal the deformation of micelles along with the stretching direction. A structure evolution mechanism upon solvent change is proposed, according to the experimental observations, to explain influence of solvent quality on the mechanical properties of the micelle-crosslinked gels.