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Microphase Arrangement of Smart Superhydrophilic Segmented Polyurethanes at Their Interface with Water

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posted on 2020-10-29, 20:45 authored by Helma Vakili, Mohsen Mohseni, Hesam Makki, Hossein Yahyaei, Hossein Ghanbari, Alba González, Lourdes Irusta
Smart coatings have aroused a growing interest because of the performance of predefined surface functions upon reacting to external stimuli. Among them, responsive polymer coatings to water, which often benefit from the presence of a mobile hydrophilic material, are of great interest. Polyurethanes (PUs) are versatile materials with respect to the structure–property relationship. Therefore, the incorporation of hydrophilic segments in PUs is a rational way to produce water-sensitive smart coatings; however, having a considerable amount of hydrophilic material deteriorates the physical properties because of a large amount of water uptake. In this study, we have analyzed previously synthesized smart PUs, based on hydrophobic polycarbonate (PC) and hydrophilic polyethylene glycol (PEG) soft segments, in which only a limited amount of PEG is used. These coatings maintain, more or less, zero water contact angle, whereas the water uptake remains below 15 wt %. The combination of experimental analysis and coarse-grained molecular dynamics (CG MD) simulations reveals that PEG segments migrate to the coating/water interface and partially cover the surface, whereas the hydrophobic nature of the PC keeps the bulk of the coating intact when the coating is covered with water. Moreover, our CG MD simulations and experimental analysis suggest a reversible phase arrangement under wet/dry cycles on molecular and macroscopic scales.