J Phys Chem B 2008 Aug 6;112(34):10399-404. Epub 2008 Aug 6.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA.
NMR spectra were collected for cross-linked poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), poly(NIPAM), hydrogels in the presence of NaCl and CaCl2 aqueous solutions. Intensity variations in the 1H NMR signals of the polymer provide insight into the phase transition process. These data were used to observe a two-stage phase transition process. Thermodynamic quantities were obtained from a van't Hoff analysis of the temperature-dependent equilibrium constants, which were derived from the NMR data. The Delta H degrees and Delta S degrees values for the hydrogel in D2O are 3.4 kJ/mol and 11.2 J/mol.K for stage I, which is attributed to the formation of hydrophobic bonds between neighboring isopropyl groups. The formation of hydrogen bonds during stage II yielded Delta H degrees and Delta S degrees values of 14.8 kJ/mol and 48.4 J/mol.K in D2O. However, the corresponding Delta H degrees values in 150 mM NaCl and 150 mM CaCl2 are reduced to 1.5 and 1.8 kJ/mol for stage I of the dehydration process. This corresponds to the known effect of salts on hydrophobic bond energetics. The value of Delta S degrees also decreased to 4.9 and 5.9 J/mol.K in NaCl and CaCl2 solutions, respectively. However, the thermodynamic values during stage II were only slightly affected by the salts. The lower temperatures required to induce spontaneous precipitation implies that Delta G degrees of precipitation is reduced. With our measurement of equilibrium thermodynamics, we see that 150 mM NaCl and CaCl2 solutions have a greater effect on hydrophobic bond formation associated with the phase transition process. In this manner, these salts aid in solvent reorganization necessary to form the hydrophobic bond, and this suggests that the formation of hydrophobic bonds is a strong determining factor in the stability of poly(NIPAM) hydrogels in water.