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Keywords:

  • ion pairs;
  • polymer gels;
  • polyelectrolytes;
  • solvent effects;
  • structure–property relationships

Abstract

Molecular design of lipophilic polyelectrolyte gels as superabsorbent polymers that exhibit a high degree of swelling in less-polar and nonpolar organic solvents is demonstrated. A small amount of tetraalkylammonium tetraphenylborate with long alkyl chains as a lipopholic ion pair is incorporated into crosslinked polyacrylates with variable alkyl chain lengths to provide novel lipophilic polyelectrolyte gels. Their swelling degree becomes more than 100 times as much as their dried weights in various organic solvents. The high effectiveness of the swellable solvents shifts to the polar ones by decreasing the length of the alkyl chain. Swelling or collapsing of the lipophilic polyelectrolyte gels originates from both incompatibility of the polymer chains in the media and dissociation of ionic groups. Thus, a unique superabsorbency is observed when the polymer chains have good compatibility with the solvents and the solvents have relatively high polarities enough to dissociate the ionic groups. By varying the polarity of the neutral monomer in these polyelectrolyte gels, the design of gels that can absorb solvents of nearly any polarity is demonstrated.