Molecular in situ monitoring of the pH-triggered response in adaptive polymers by two-dimensional Raman micro-correlation-spectroscopy†

in: Chemical Science (2023)
Hniopek, Julian; Meurer, Josefine; Zechel, Stefan; Schmitt, Michael; Hager, Martin D.; Popp, Jürgen
Stimuli-responsive polymers can switch specific physical properties in response to a change of the environmental conditions. This behavior offers unique advantages in applications where adaptive materials are needed. To tune the properties of stimuli-responsive polymers, a detailed understanding of the relationship between the applied stimulus and changes in molecular structure as well as the relationship between the latter and macroscopic properties is required, which until now has required laborious methods. Here, we present a straightforward way to investigate the progressing trigger, the change of the chemical composition of the polymer and the macroscopic properties simultaneously. Thereby, the response behavior of the reversible polymer is studied in situ with molecular sensitivity and spatial as well as temporal resolution utilizing Raman micro-spectroscopy. Combined with two-dimensional correlation analysis (2DCOS), this method reveals the stimuli-response on a molecular level and determines the sequence of changes and the diffusion rate inside the polymer. Due to the label-free and non-invasive approach, it is furthermore possible to combine this method with the investigation of macroscopic properties revealing the response of the polymer to the external stimulus on both the molecular and the macroscopic level.

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