Water-soluble random and alternating copolymers of styrene monomers with adjustable lower critical solution temperature
Random copolymers of 4-vinylbenzyl tri(oxyethylene) and tetra(oxyethylene) ethers, as well as alternating copolymers of 4-vinylbenzyl methoxytetra(oxyethylene) ether and a series of N-substituted maleimides, were synthesised by conventional free radical polymerisation, reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) and atom transfer radical polymerisation (ATRP). Their thermosensitive behaviour in aqueous solution was studied by turbidimetry and dynamic light scattering. Depending on the copolymer composition, a LCST type phase transition was observed in water. The transition temperature of the obtained random as well as alternating copolymers could be varied within a broad temperature window. In the case of the random copolymers, transition temperatures could be easily fine-tuned, as they showed a linear dependence on the copolymer composition, and were additionally modified by the nature of the polymer end-groups. Alternating copolymers were extremely versatile for implementing a broad range of variations of the phase transition temperatures. Further, while alternating copolymers derived from 4-vinylbenzyl methoxytetra(oxyethylene) ether and maleimides with small hydrophobic side chains underwent macroscopic phase separation when dissolved in water and heated above their cloud point, the incorporation of maleimides bearing larger hydrophobic substituents resulted in the formation of mesoglobules above the phase transition temperature, with hydrodynamic diameters of less than 100 nm.