The influence of PEO/poly(vinyl phenol-co-styrene sulfonate) aqueous complex structure on flocculation
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Colloidal suspensions were flocculated with complexes formed from high molecular weight polyethylene oxide (PEO) and a cofactor. Poly(vinyl phenol-co-potassium styrene sulfate) (PKS) or poly(styrene-co-styrene sulfonate) (PS-co-SSS) copolymers were used as the cofactors for this work. The larger the PEO/cofactor complex species, the better the initial flocculation. Factors such as increasing temperature or ionic strength that gave smaller complexes also gave poorer flocculation. Cofactor performance was sensitive to the balance of hydrophobic phenolic groups and hydrophilic styrene sulfonates. If there are too few phenolic groups, the PEO/PSK complexes are large but are too weak to give shear-resistant flocs, whereas complexes formed with high phenolic content PSK are relatively small, giving poorer flocculation but more shear-resistant flocs. Both phenyl and phenol groups are effective as the hydrophobic component in the cofactor. The hydrogen-bonding potential of phenolic cofactors does not seem to offer much advantage relative to phenyl groups. A crucial step in the flocculation is the adsorption of PEO/cofactor complex onto the target colloids. Thus, flocculation is sensitive to the target colloid surface chemistry. Positively charged precipitated calcium carbonate and surfactant-free polystyrene latex are particularly easy to flocculate because adsorption is driven by electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions, respectively. By contrast, the latex coated with hydrophilic poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) does not flocculate because the PEO/cofactor complex does not bind to PNIPAM. Finally, the flocculation of highly negatively charged, dextran sulfate coated calcium carbonate seems to be stimulated by the presence of soluble calcium ions that make the complex less soluble and more likely to adsorb.
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