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Poly(vinylamine) microgels : pH-responsive particles with high primary amine contents

Thaiboonrod, Sineenat and Berkland, Cory and Milani, Amir H. and Ulijn, Rein and Saunders, Brian R. (2013) Poly(vinylamine) microgels : pH-responsive particles with high primary amine contents. Soft Matter, 9 (15). pp. 3920-3930. ISSN 1744-6848

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pH-responsive microgels are crosslinked polymer colloid particles that swell when the pH approaches the pK(a) of the polybase or polyacid chains. Poly(vinylamine) (PVAM) has the highest primary amine content of all amine-containing polymers. Despite much effort the preparation of colloidally stable PVAM microgels is still elusive. Here, we introduce a simple and scalable, two-step method for preparation of pH-responsive PVAM microgels. First, non-aqueous dispersion (NAD) polymerization was used to prepare new monodisperse water-swellable poly(N-vinylformamide-co-2-(N-vinylformamido) ethyl ether microgels (PNVF-xNVEE). Here, x is the mol% of the alkali-stable crosslinker (NVEE) used. Alkali-hydrolysis of the PNVF-xNVEE microgels in water gave colloidally stable poly(vinylamine-co-bis(ethyl vinylamine)ether) (PVAM-xBEVAME) microgel dispersions. SEM images showed that both the PNVF-9NVEE and PVAM-9BEVAME microgel particles had cluster-like morphologies. The PVAM-xBEVAME particles were positively charged at pH values less than 12. The hydrodynamic diameters and electrophoretic mobilities increased strongly as the pH decreased. In order to demonstrate that primary amines could be used as chemical handles for conjugation, pyrene carboxylic acid was coupled using N-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)-N'-ethylcarbodiimide (EDC) chemistry and its presence confirmed by fluorescence microscopy. Because this new family of colloidally stable microgels has very high primary amine contents and was prepared by a scalable synthetic method there should be potential applications in a wide range of areas from surface coatings and new hybrid particles to delivery.