, Volume 282, Issue 9, pp 1000-1007
Date: 06 Dec 2003

Non-equilibrium adsorption at solid/liquid interfaces from polyelectrolyte solutions

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The poly(2-vinylpyridine) layer was established at the Pyrex glass/water interface with periodic phases of adsorption/desorption runs observed over several days. This was evidenced by determining the concentration of radio-labelled molecules in the solution equilibrating the glass beads as a function of time (the effluent) while the same radio-labelled polymer was slowly supplied by injecting the polymer solution into the reactor containing the adsorbent at a controlled extremely slow rate. Although the adsorption (or the desorption) steps seemed to present some periodic character, they were better correlated with the successive bulk concentration thresholds that were established with time when the initial surface was free of polymer at time zero. Even when the adsorbent was coated at different degrees, desorption steps were correlated to the overstepping of decreasing concentration thresholds. Adsorption and desorption runs were attributed to the existence of different typical interfacial conformations of the adsorbed macromolecules that only can be stabilised in the adsorbed state when the layer was “equilibrated” with the polymer solution of a certain concentration. Macromolecule were definitely adsorbed when the reconformation process led to a flat conformation (trains). Macromolecules adsorbed with a conformation close to their solution conformation may be desorbed as a result of the reconformation process affecting previously adsorbed neighbour molecules (in the case of partially coated surfaces at time zero of injection). Macromolecules with loops and tails were retained on the surface when the polymer concentration in the bulk was progressively increased (for uncoated surfaces at time zero of injection). All these effect were attributed to the combined influence of topological effects on adsorption and reconformation of adsorbed macromolecules that characterise the non-equilibrium adsorption processes.