Both thermoresponsive flat membranes and core-shell microcapsule membranes, with a porous membrane substrate and grafted poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) gates, were successfully prepared using a plasma-graft pore-filling polymerization method. PNIPAM was proven to be grafted homogeneously onto the porous membrane substrates, in the direction of both the membrane thickness and surface. Regardless of the solute molecular size, temperature had an opposite effect on diffusion coefficients of the solute across the PNIPAM-grafted membranes with low graft yields as opposed to those with high graft yields. The PE-g-PNIPAM membranes change from positive thermo-response to negative thermoresponse types with increasing pore-filling ratios at around 30%. Phenomenological models were developed for predicting the diffusion coefficient of the solute across PNIPAM-grafted membranes at temperatures, both above and below the lower critical solution temperature (LCST). Predicted diffusional coefficients of solutes across both the PNIPAM-grafted flat and PNIPAM-grafted microcapsule membranes fit the experimental values. To obtain an ideal result for the diffusional thermoresponsive controlled release through PNIPAM-grafted membranes, the substrates strong enough to prevent any conformation changes are more suitable for preparing thermoresponsive membranes than weak ones.
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