Modeling lower critical solution temperature behavior of associating polymer brushes with classical density functional theory
Marshall, Bennett D.
Chapman, Walter G.
We study the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) behavior of associating polymer brushes (i.e., poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)) using classical density functional theory. Without using any empirical or temperature-dependent parameters, we find the phase transition of polymer brushes from extended to collapsed structure with increasing temperature, indicating the LCST behavior of polymer brushes. The LCST behavior of associating polymer brushes is attributed to the interplay of hydrogen bonding interactions and Lennard-Jones attractions in the system. The effect of grafting density and molecular weight on the phase behavior of associating polymer brushes has been also investigated. We find no LCST behavior at low grafting density or molecular weight. Moreover, increasing grafting density decreases the LCST and swelling ratio of polymer brushes. Similarly, increasing molecular weight decreases the LCST but increases the swelling ratio. At very high grafting density, a partial collapsed structure appears near the LCST. Qualitatively consistent with experiments, our results provide insight into the molecular mechanism of LCST behavior of associating polymer brushes.