The dissociation of the two adjacent carboxylic acids in maleic acid-containing copolymers is expected to differ from those of poly(acrylic acid) and poly(methacrylic acid) where the acids are separated by two carbons on the backbone. In this work, we have employed potentiometric titration and NMR spectroscopy to characterize the dissociation behavior and chemical compositions of several water-soluble maleic acid-containing copolymers. A distinct two-step process corresponding to the dissociation of the two adjacent carboxylic acids is observed in aqueous CaCl2 (0.02 N) solution for copolymers of maleic acid and isobutylene, diisobutylene, and styrene. Such a two-step ionization process is less recognizable, however, for the copolymers of maleic acid and linear alkenes ranging from n-hexene to n-octadecene. Nevertheless, the compositions of all copolymers, including the extent of neutralization and the ratio of the comonomer moieties, are estimated from the titration curves. The chemical composition derived from potentiometry and NMR spectroscopy for all copolymers are approximately 1 : 1 (maleic acid : comonomer). With the exception of the hydrophobically modified copolymer of isobutylene-maleic acid, no obvious conformational transition was observed over the whole range of ionization for these hydrophobic maleic acid-containing copolymers. This is related to the aggregated state of these copolymers in aqueous media. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 42: 3571–3583, 2004
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