Water self-diffusion coefficients and longitudinal relaxation rates in sodium polyacrylate solutions and gels were measured by NMR, as a function of polymer content and structure in a physiological concentration range of monovalent and divalent cations, Ca2+ and Na+. Several physical models describing the self-diffusion of the solvent were applied and compared. A free-volume model was found to be in good agreement with the experimental results over a wide range of polymer concentrations. The longitudinal relaxation rate exhibited linear dependence on polymer concentration below a critical concentration and showed non-linear behavior at higher concentrations. Both the water self-diffusion and relaxation were less influenced by the polymer in the gel state than in the uncrosslinked polymer solutions. The effect of Na+ on the mobility of water molecules was practically undetectable. In contrast, addition of Ca2+ strongly increased the longitudinal relaxation rate while its effect on the self-diffusion coefficient was much less pronounced. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci., 2014, 131, 40001.
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