Effect of ion-ion correlations on polyelectrolyte gel collapse and reentrant swelling

Charles E. Sing, Jos W. Zwanikken, Monica Olvera De La Cruz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Polyelectrolyte gels are known to exhibit strong response to changes in salt concentration, an effect attributed to osmotic effects. Traditional theories are insufficient to describe all the properties observed in experiments; namely, reentrant swelling effects at high salt concentrations and complete polyelectrolyte collapse at high salt valencies. We incorporate liquid-state integral equation theories to account for the many-body correlations between finite-sized ions in a strongly charged polyelectrolyte gel. This represents a theory for such systems that goes well beyond well-known Debye-Huckel (DH) and Poisson-Boltzmann (PB) theories. We demonstrate that charge correlations give rise to enhanced gel deswelling, a first-order collapse to a highly correlated state at large valencies, and counterion size-dependent reentrant swelling. Such ion-specific effects provide routes for practical control of stimuli-responsive polymeric materials based on polyelectrolyte gels, and deeper understanding of biological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5053-5065
Number of pages13
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 25 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry

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