Concentration and temperature dependent interactions and state diagram of dispersions of copolymer microgels

José Ruiz-Franco, Rodrigo Rivas-Barbosa, Mayra A. Lara-Peña, José R. Villanueva-Valencia, Angel Licea-Claverie, Emanuela Zaccarelli*, Marco Laurati*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We investigate by means of small angle neutron scattering experiments and numerical simulations the interactions and inter-particle arrangements of concentrated dispersions of copolymer poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-poly(ethylene glycol methyl ether methacrylate) (PNIPAM-PEGMA) microgels across the volume phase transition (VPT). The scattering data of moderately concentrated dispersions are accurately modeled at all temperatures by using a star polymer form factor and static structure factors calculated from the effective potential obtained from simulations. Interestingly, for temperatures below the VPT temperature (VPTT), the radius of gyration and blob size of the particles significantly decrease with increasing the effective packing fraction in the non-overlapping regime. This is attributed to the presence of charges in the system associated with the use of an ionic initiator in the synthesis. Simulations using the experimentally corroborated interaction potential are used to explore the state diagram in a wide range of effective packing fractions. Below and slightly above the VPTT, the system undergoes an arrest transition mainly driven by the soft repulsion between the particles. Only well above the VPTT the system is found to phase separate before arresting. Our results highlight the versatility and potential of copolymer PNIPAM-PEGMA microgels to explore different kinds of arrested states balancing attraction and repulsion by changing temperature and packing fraction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3614-3628
Number of pages15
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2023


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