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Abstract

A study was made of the effect of carboxylic monomers on the surfactant-free emulsion polymerization of styrene and styrene–butadiene. Acid monomers, such as acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, and itaconic acid, were shown to play a critical role in particle formation and particle stabilization in such systems. In the emulsion polymerization of styrene, methacrylic acid forms particles more efficiently than acrylic acid. This difference is attributed to the more hydrophobic nature of the methacrylic monomer which allows it to diffuse more rapidly to the particle surface where it acts to prevent agglomeration. The ability of carboxyl groups to orient at the particle–water interface was studied by acid–base and soap titrations of carboxylated styrene–butadiene latices. The polymerization of itaconic acid onto the particle surface of a styrene–butadiene latex produces a surface carboxyl density much higher than is obtainable with classically adsorbed surfactants. This result is used to explain the greater stability of carboxylated versus noncarboxylated emulsion polymers. During the polymerization of styrene–butadiene latices, carboxyl groups dervied from methacrylic acid are shown to be buried more deeply into the particle as compared to carboxyls derived from the more hydrophilic acrylic acid which orient more at the particle–water interface.