Parallel Effects of Cations on PNIPAM Graft Wettability and PNIPAM Solubility Academic Article uri icon


  • Stimuli-responsive surfaces grafted with thermoresponsive polymers switch from hydrophilic to hydrophobic thermally, making these surfaces attractive in applications such as in microfluidics devices, as antifouling surfaces, and in cell culture and tissue engineering. These materials exhibit changes in wettability as the polymer undergoes a phase transition above its lower critical solution temperature (LCST). Because the presence of salts affects LCSTs in accordance to the Hofmeister series, salt effects on the wettability of these thermoresponsive surfaces will dramatically impact device performance. Prior studies of such effects have focused on the influence of anions. Detailed studies of the effects of cations have not been carried out. Here, the influence of varying cation identity in a series of mono-, di-, and trivalent sulfate salts on the wettability of a stimuli-responsive grafted surface was investigated by measuring advancing water contact angle (Theta(a)) changes. The cation-induced changes in Theta(a) were correlated with corresponding changes in surface morphology examined by AFM. The results showed that the effects of varying cations on surface wettability are as large as the effects of varying anion identity and concentration (i.e., Theta(a) changes of up to 90 degrees). Parallel studies of the effects of varying the cation identity and concentration for these same cation sulfate salts in solution show that cation variation also has a large effect on the LCST of PNIPAM, the stimuli responsive polymer component of the nanocomposite grafts that were studied. Moreover, analyses of the Theta(a) and LCST data using activity showed that the Theta(a) or LCST versus cation activity/concentration could be readily grouped by charge. Such differences are not seen in similar studies where anion identity, charge, and concentration are changed.

author list (cited authors)

  • Fu, H., Hong, X., Wan, A., Batteas, J. D., & Bergbreiter, D. E.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010 11:11 AM