Ionic complexation of endblock-sulfonated thermoplastic elastomers and their physical gels for improved thermomechanical performance.

Affiliation

Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA; Department of Materials Science & Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) composed of nonpolar triblock copolymers constitute a broadly important class of (re)processable network-forming macromolecules employed in ubiquitous commercial applications. Physical gelation of these materials in the presence of a low-volatility oil that is midblock-selective yields tunably soft TPE gels (TPEGs) that are suitable for emergent technologies ranging from electroactive, phase-change and shape-memory responsive media to patternable soft substrates for flexible electronics and microfluidics. Many of the high-volume TPEs used for these purposes possess styrenic endblocks that are inherently limited by a relatively low glass transition temperature. To mitigate this shortcoming, we sulfonate and subsequently complex (and physically crosslink) the endblocks with trivalent Al3+ ions. Doing so reduces the effective hydrophilicity of the sulfonated endblocks, as evidenced by water uptake measurements, while concurrently enhancing the thermomechanical stability of the corresponding TPEGs. Chemical modification results, as well as morphological and property development, are investigated as functions of the degree of sulfonation, complexation and TPEG composition.

Keywords

Block ionomer,Physical gel,Thermoplastic elastomer,Thermoplastic elastomer gel,

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