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Ternary Nanoswitches Realized with Multiresponsive PMMA-b-PNIPMAM Films in Mixed Water/Acetone Vapor Atmospheres

: Geiger, C.; Reitenbach, J.; Henschel, C.; Kreuzer, L.P.; Widmann, T.; Wang, P.; Mangiapia, G.; Moulin, J.-F.; Papadakis, C.M.; Laschewsky, A.; Müller-Buschbaum, P.

Fulltext ()

Advanced engineering materials (2021), Online First, 12 pp.
ISSN: 1438-1656
ISSN: 1615-7508
ISSN: 1527-2648
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IAP ()

To systematically add functionality to nanoscale polymer switches, an understanding of their responsive behavior is crucial. Herein, solvent vapor stimuli are applied to thin films of a diblock copolymer consisting of a short poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) block and a long poly(N-isopropylmethacrylamide) (PNIPMAM) block for realizing ternary nanoswitches. Three significantly distinct film states are successfully implemented by the combination of amphiphilicity and co-nonsolvency effect. The exposure of the thin films to nitrogen, pure water vapor, and mixed water/acetone (90 vol%/10 vol%) vapor switches the films from a dried to a hydrated (solvated and swollen) and a water/acetone-exchanged (solvated and contracted) equilibrium state. These three states have distinctly different film thicknesses and solvent contents, which act as switch positions “off,” “on,” and “standby.” For understanding the switching process, time-of-flight neutron reflectometry (ToF-NR) and spectral reflectance (SR) studies of the swelling and dehydration process are complemented by information on the local solvation of functional groups probed with Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. An accelerated responsive behavior beyond a minimum hydration/solvation level is attributed to the fast build-up and depletion of the hydration shell of PNIPMAM, caused by its hydrophobic moieties promoting a cooperative hydration character.