Effect of homopolymer solubilization on triblock gel structure and mechanical response



The linear modulus, swelling behavior, and high strain response of a set of well-characterized model triblock gels were investigated to understand the effect of homopolymer solubilized within the micelle core on gel structure and mechanical properties. Structural parameters were obtained from small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) as well as from self-consistent field theory (SCFT) calculations. Experimental results are compared with Neo-Hookean and exponentially strain hardening models for gel behavior and rigid filler effects are discussed. The main conclusion is that the addition of homopolymer to the micelle core increases the chain stretching in both the core and coronal blocks. The total extension of a chain for a given external load is fixed by its length; however, the initial prestretch imparted to the chain due to micellization changes with the size of the micelle core and can greatly reduce the amount of extension observed for a given external force. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 48: 1395–1408, 2010