Exploring the Heteroatom Effect on Polyelectrolyte Multilayer Assembly: The Neglected Polyoniums

Different positive polyelectrolytes having the same charge density, molecular weight, and molecular weight distribution were employed for polyelectrolyte multilayer (PEMU) assembly. The polycations differed only in the heteroatom on which the positive charge resided: poly(vinyl benzyl trimethyl ammonium) chloride, poly(vinyl benzyl trimethyl phosphonium) chloride, and poly(vinyl benzyl dimethyl sulfonium) chloride. While the ammonium repeat unit has been employed on numerous occasions for PEMU assembly, the phosphonium and sulfonium units are relatively neglected. The polyanions, poly(styrene sulfonate), PSS, or poly(acrylic acid), PAA, were typical pH-independent or pH-dependent polymers, respectively. All three polyoniums were quite similar in showing linear layer-by-layer buildup with PSS and exponential growth with PAA, under the conditions employed. Hydration and wettability were also similar between polyoniums.