Response of ionizable block copolymer assemblies to solvent dielectrics: A molecular dynamics study

M Senanayake and D Aryal and GS Grest and D Perahia, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 159, 194904 (2023).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0174410

Ionizable copolymers assembly in solutions is driven by the formation of ionic clusters. Fast clustering of the ionizable blocks often leads to the formation of far-from equilibrium assemblies that ultimately impact the structure of polymer membranes and affect their many applications. Using large-scale atomistic molecular dynamics simulations, we probe the effects of electrostatics on the formation of ionizable copolymer micelles that dominate their solution structure, with the overarching goal of defining the factors that control the assembly of structured ionizable copolymers. A symmetric pentablock ionizable copolymer, with a randomly sulfonated polystyrene center tethered to polyethylene-r- propylene block, terminated by poly(t-butyl styrene), in solvents of varying dielectric constants from 2 to 20, serves as the model system. We find that independent of the solvents, this polymer forms a core- shell micelle with the ionizable segment segregating to the center of the assembly. The specific block conformation, however, strongly depends on the sulfonation levels and the dielectric constant and the polarity of the solvents.

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