Site blocking effects on adsorbed polyacrylamide conformation
Brotherson, Brett Andrew
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The use of polymers as flocculating additives is a common practice in many manufacturing environments. However, exactly how these polymers interact with surfaces is relatively unknown. One specific topic which is thought to be very important to flocculation is an adsorbed polymer's conformation. Substantial amounts of previous work, mainly using simulations, have been performed to elucidate the theory surrounding adsorbed polymer conformations. Yet, there is little experimental work which directly verifies current theory. In order to optimize the use of polymer flocculants in industrial applications, a better understanding of an adsorbed polymer's conformation on a surface beyond theoretical simulations is necessary. This work looks specifically at site blocking, which has a broad impact on flocculation, adsorption, and surface modification, and investigated its effects on the resulting adsorbed polymer conformation. Experimental methods which would allow direct determination of adsorbed polymer conformational details and be comparable with previous experimental results were first determined or developed. Characterization of an adsorbed polymer's conformation was then evaluated using dynamic light scattering, a currently accepted experimental technique to examine this. This commonly used technique was performed to allow the comparison of this works results with past literature. Next, a new technique using atomic force microscopy was developed, building on previous experimental techniques, to allow the direct determination of an adsorbed polymer's loop lengths. This method also was able to quantify changes in the length of adsorbed polymer tails. Finally, mesoscopic simulation was attempted using dissipative particle dynamics. In order to determine more information about an adsorbed polymer's conformation, three different environmental factors were analyzed: an adsorbed polymer on a surface in water, an adsorbed polymer on a surface in aqueous solutions of varying ionic strength, and an adsorbed polymer on a surface functionalized with site blocking additives. This work investigated these scenarios using a low charge density high molecular weight cationic polyacrylamide. Three different substrates, for polymer adsorption were analyzed: mica, anionic latex, and glass. It was determined that, similar to previous studies, the adsorbed polymer layer thickness in water is relatively small even for high molecular weight polymers, on the order of tens of nanometers. The loop length distribution of a single polymer, experimentally verified for the first time, revealed a broad span of loop lengths as high as 1.5 microns. However, the bulk of the distribution was found between 40 and 260 nanometers. For the first time, previous theoretical predictions regarding the salt effect on adsorbed polymer conformation were confirmed experimentally. It was determined that the adsorbed polymer layer thickness expanded with increasing ionic strength of the solvent. Using atomic force microscopy, it was determined that the adsorbed polymer loop lengths and tail lengths increased with increasing ionic strength, supporting the results found using dynamic light scattering. The effect of the addition of site blocking additives on a single polymer's conformation was investigated for the first time. It was determined that the addition of site blocking additives caused strikingly similar results as the addition of salt to the medium. The changes in an adsorbed polymer's loop lengths was found to be inconsistent and minimal. However, the changes in an adsorbed polymer's free tail length was found to increase with increasing site blocking additive levels. These results were obtained using either PDADMAC or cationic nanosilica as site blocking additives.