Universal scaling and characterisation of gelation in associative polymer solutions

13 Aug 2020  ·  Aritra Santra, B. Dünweg, J. Ravi Prakash ·

A Brownian dynamics algorithm is used to describe the static behaviour of associative polymer solutions. Predictions for the fractions of stickers bound by intra-chain and inter-chain association, as a function of system parameters, such as the number of stickers, the number of monomers between stickers, the solvent quality, and concentration are obtained. A systematic comparison with the scaling relations predicted by the mean-field theory of Dobrynin (Macromolecules, 37, 3881, 2004) is carried out. Different regimes of scaling behaviour are identified depending on the monomer concentration, the density of stickers on a chain, and the solvent quality for backbone monomers. Simulation results validate the predictions of the mean-field theory across a wide range of parameter values in all the scaling regimes. The value of the des Cloizeaux exponent proposed by Dobrynin for sticky polymer solutions, is shown to lead to a collapse of simulation data for all the scaling relations considered here. Three different signatures for the characterisation of gelation are identified, with each leading to a different value of the concentration at the sol-gel transition. The modified Flory-Stockmayer expression is found to be validated by simulations for all three gelation signatures. Simulation results confirm the prediction of scaling theory for the gelation line that separates sol and gel phases, when the modified Flory-Stockmayer expression is used. Phase separation is found to occur with increasing concentration for systems in which the backbone monomers are under theta-solvent conditions, and is shown to coincide with a breakdown in the predictions of scaling theory.

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Soft Condensed Matter Statistical Mechanics