Self-consistent field theory of polymer-ionic molecule complexation
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A self-consistent field theory is developed for polymers that are capable of binding small ionic molecules (adsorbates). The polymer-ionic molecule association is described by Ising-like binding variables, C(i) ((a))(kDelta)(=0 or 1), whose average determines the number of adsorbed molecules, n(BI). Polymer gelation can occur through polymer-ionic molecule complexation in our model. For polymer-polymer cross-links through the ionic molecules, three types of solutions for n(BI) are obtained, depending on the equilibrium constant of single-ion binding. Spinodal lines calculated from the mean-field free energy exhibit closed-loop regions where the homogeneous phase becomes unstable. This phase instability is driven by the excluded-volume interaction due to the single occupancy of ion-binding sites on the polymers. Moreover, sol-gel transitions are examined using a critical degree of conversion. A gel phase is induced when the concentration of adsorbates is increased. At a higher concentration of the adsorbates, however, a re-entrance from a gel phase into a sol phase arises from the correlation between unoccupied and occupied ion-binding sites. The theory is applied to a model system, poly(vinyl alcohol) and borate ion in aqueous solution with sodium chloride. Good agreement between theory and experiment is obtained.
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