Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

Ryan G. Toomey


ATR-FTIR, Critical temperature, Ellipsometry, Hofmeister series, Poly(N-alkylacrylamides), QCM-D


The overall thrust of this project is to gain an insight into a class of surface-tethered cross-linked thin films of poly(N-alkylacrylamides) that display a lower critical solution temperature (LCST).The structure of the alkyl group and the modification of the amide groups determine the LCST and resultant volume-phase transition behavior. The aim of this study involves synthesis and characterization of thin films and to correlate the volume-transition behavior to the structure of the alkyl group. For better understanding the volume-transition behavior, the polymer films are perturbed by the Hofmeister salt series to examine trends between different alkyl groups. While most of the studies have been done with bulk gels, the majority of the applications require the use of gels at surfaces and interfaces. Surface attached polymer networks provide an alternative to bulk gels showing superior response times, thus efficiency. Hence it is significant to understand the impact of confinement on the phase transition behavior of a polymer network. Anchoring a polymer network to a surface produces volume phase transition perpendicular to the substrate. The parallel swelling and collapse of the network is highly restricted due to lateral confinement, thus impacting properties such as structure, mechanical properties, dynamics and permeability of the network. Several studies have been done with poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) anchored to a substrate, which have shown significantly different behavior than unconstrained networks. Notable examples include a gradual as opposed to a sharp volume-phase transition, and significantly less swelling above and below the LCST. These studies only looked at poly(NIPAAm); therefore it

remains unknown if these results are universal and will apply to other LCST polymers. Hence, we expanded upon these studies to also investigate a library of different LCST polymers belonging to the category of N-alkylacrylamides.

I have synthesized the copolymers comprising of N-alkylacrylamides and methacryloxybenzophenone (MaBP). The benzophenone moiety in MaBP is photoreactive, allowing us to cross-link the copolymers by UV irradiation. Surface attached thin films were fabricated by spin coating the solution of copolymers and cross-linking by UV irradiation. The volume phase transitions of the coatings were studied under the influence of temperature and the salts of the Hofmeister series. Information concerning the state of responsive layers, the precise temperature at which the collapse occurs, and the changes in the molecular environment during the transition were investigated by ellipsometry and ATR-FTIR. In a longer perspective, understanding the transition behavior and the influence of salts governing this transition provides a better understanding of the interactions of biopolymers in natural systems.