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Keywords:

  • graft copolymers;
  • plasma polymerization;
  • polyethylene (PE);
  • membranes

Abstract

A temperature-responsive polymer, poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm), was grafted onto porous polyethylene membranes by a plasma-induced graft polymerization technique. A wide range of grafting was achieved through variations in the grafting conditions, including the postpolymerization temperature, time, monomer concentration, and graft-reaction medium. The active species induced by plasma treatment was proven to be long-living via a postpolymerization time of 95 h. Different solvent compositions, that is, water, methanol, benzene, and water/methanol, were used as reaction media, and water showed a much higher polymerization rate than the organic solvents. Based on the hydrophilicity of the active species, a mechanism explaining the solvent effect in plasma-induced graft polymerization was examined. Characterizations by scanning electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and micro Fourier transform infrared showed that the grafted polymers were located on both the outer surface and inside pores of the membranes. The XPS analysis also confirmed that the polar amide groups tended to distribute more outward when grafted PNIPAAm was in its expanding state than when it was in its shrinking state. Water permeation experiments showed that the permeability of the grafted membranes varied dramatically with a slight temperature change in the vicinity of the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of PNIPAAm. The effective pore radii of the grafted membranes above and below the LCST could be depicted by Hagen-Poiseuille's law. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 89: 3180–3187, 2003