PHYSICAL REVIEW E, v. 92, NO 3, Page. 303021-303025
We investigate poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAM) microgels randomly copolymerized with large mol % of protonated acrylic acid (AAc), finding that above the lower critical solution temperature the presence of the acid strongly disrupts pNIPAM's collapse, leading to unexpected new behavior at high temperatures. Specifically, we see a dramatic increase in the ratio between the radius of gyration and the hydrodynamic radius above the theoretical value for homogeneous spheres, and a corresponding increase of the network length scale, which we attribute to the presence of a heterogeneous polymer distribution that forms due to frustration of pNIPAM's coil-to-globule transition by the AAc. We analyze this phenomenon using a Debye-Bueche-like scattering contribution as opposed to the Lorentzian term often used, interpreting the results in terms of mass segregation at the particle periphery.