|Title||Ion Pairing and the Structure of Gel Coacervates|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2020|
|Authors||SPO Danielsen, S Panyukov, and M Rubinstein|
|Pagination||9420 - 9442|
A scaling model for the structure of coacervates is presented for mixtures of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes of both symmetric and asymmetric charge densities for different degrees of electrostatic strength and levels of added salt. At low electrostatic strengths, weak coacervates, with the energy of electrostatic interactions between charges less than the thermal energy, kBT, are liquid. At higher electrostatic strengths, strong coacervates are gels with cross-links formed by ion pairs of opposite charges bound to each other with energy higher than kBT. Charge-symmetric coacervates are formed for mixtures of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes with equal and opposite charge densities. While charge-symmetric weak coacervates form a semidilute polymer solution with a correlation length equal to the electrostatic blob size, charge-symmetric strong coacervates form reversible gels with a correlation length on the order of the distance between bound ion pairs. Charge-asymmetric coacervates are formed from mixtures of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes with different charge densities. While charge-asymmetric weak coacervates form double solutions with two correlation lengths and qualitatively different chain conformations of polycations and polyanions, charge-asymmetric strong coacervates form bottlebrush and star-like gels. Unlike liquid coacervates, for which an increase in the concentration of added salt screens electrostatic interactions, causing structural rearrangement which eventually leads to their dissolution, the salt does not affect the structure of strong coacervates until ion pairs dissociate and the gel disperses.