The rheology of water-soluble polyelectrolytes at intermediate and high concentrations is controlled by entanglement, hydrophobic, and electrostatic interactions, whose influences are difficult to isolate. We investigate the rheology of semidilute solutions of sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (NaCMC) with molecular weight Mw ≃ 2.5 × 105 g/mol and varying degree of substitution (DS) as a function of polymer concentration in various solvent media: salt-free water (long-ranged electrostatic interactions), 0.5 M aqueous NaCl (screened electrostatics), and 0.5 M aqueous NaOH (screened electrostatics, diminished hydrophobic interactions) in order to selectively examine the role played by these different interactions. Decreasing DS is found to decrease solubility and induce partial aggregation and eventual gelation. In salt-free and 0.5 M NaCl solution, NaCMC with DS ≃ 1.2 exhibits hydrophilic polyelectrolyte and neutral polymer in good solvent behavior, respectively. Decreasing DS to ≃0.7-0.8 leads to hydrophobic behavior in both media, becoming weak gels at high concentrations. In 0.5 M NaOH (pH = 13.5) the viscosities of solutions with different DS become identical when plotted against the overlap parameter, which we interpret as resulting from the solubilization of unsubstituted cellulose blocks. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) data indicate that the polymer conformation is not strongly affected by hydrophobic interactions. By varying DS, ionic strength, and pH, we demonstrate the tuning of NaCMC-solvent interactions, controlling separately the electrostatic and hydrophobic effects on the solution rheology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Organic Chemistry
- Polymers and Plastics
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Materials Chemistry