Poly(dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate) hydrogels containing cholic acid (PDMAEMA–CA) were synthesized by radiation crosslinking. The introduction of 10 and 20 mol% cholic acid (CA) into the poly(dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate) (PDMAEMA) hydrogel decreased the maximum swelling ratio (SR) of the gel from 40 to 6 and 5, respectively. The incorporation of CA with dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate led to a decrease in the lower critical swelling temperature of the gel from 44 to 42°C but did not exert big influence on the ion-stimulus-responsive properties of the gel. However, the pH sensitivity of the PDMAEMA–CA gel was quite different from that of PDMAEMA gel. The SR of PDMAEMA gel decreased at pH 2.5, whereas the SRs of the PDMAEMA–CA gels showed a convex-upward function of pH; that is, SR of the PDMAEMA–10% CA gel first increased (pH 1.2–3.2) and then decreased (pH 3.2–11.9) with increasing pH. The pH-stimulus-responsive swelling behavior of the PDMAEMA–20% CA gel was similar to that of the PDMAEMA–10% CA gel except for the unique swelling behavior exhibited in the lower pH region. The unique decrease in SR in strong acidic solutions was attributed to aggregations driven by the hydrophobic interactions between CA molecules. Phase separation of the gel in strongly acidic solutions was observed; that is, the margin of the swollen gel was transparent and elastic (cellular structure), whereas the core of it was opaque (aggregated structure) as recorded by scanning electron microscopy. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci., 2014, 131, 39998.
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