Get the full paper here: J. Phys. Chem. B. 119, 15275 (2015).
Block copolymers of poly(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate) (PDMAEMA) and poly(oligo(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate) (POEGMA) with varying block sizes were synthesized by consecutive reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization and then exposed to cellulose substrates with different anionic charge density. The extent and dynamics of quaternized PDMAEMA-b-POEGMA adsorption on regenerated cellulose, cellulose nanofibrils (CNF), and (2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidin-1-yl)oxyl (TEMPO)-oxidized cellulose nanofibrils (TOCNF) was determined by using electromechanical and optical techniques, namely, quartz crystal microbalance (QCM-D) and surface plasmon resonance (SPR), respectively. PDMAEMA-b-POEGMA equilibrium adsorption increased with the anionic charge of cellulose, an indication of electrostatic interactions. Such an observation was further confirmed by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Depending on their architecture, adsorption on TOCNF of some of the PDMAEMA-b-POEGMA copolymers produced a significant reduction in QCM frequency, as expected from large mass uptake, while surprisingly, other copolymers induced the opposite effect. This latter, remarkable behavior was ascribed to coupled water expulsion from the interface upon charge neutralization of anionic surface sites with adsorbing cationic polymer segments. These observations were further investigated with SPR and QCM-D measurements using deuterium oxide solvent exchange to determine the amount of coupled water at the TOCNF–block copolymer interface. Finally, random copolymers with similar composition adsorbed to a larger extent compared to the respective block copolymers, revealing the effect of adsorbed loops and tails as well as hydration.