Characterization of responsive hydrogels and their interaction with other molecules have significantly expanded our understanding of the functional materials. We here report on the response of poly(N
-acrylic acid) (pNIPAm-co
-AAc) nanogels to the addition of the poly(allylamine hydrochloride) (PAH) in aqueous dispersions. We find that the hydrodynamic radius and stability of nanogels are dependent on the PAH/nanogel stoichiometry. If the nanogel solution is titrated with very small aliquots of PAH, the nanogels decrease in radius until the equivalence point, followed by aggregation at suprastoichiometric PAH additions. Conversely, when titrated with large aliquots, the nanogel charge switches rapidly from anionic to cationic, and no aggregation is observed. This behavior correlates well with electrophoretic mobility measurements, which shows the nanogel charge transitioning from negative to positive upon PAH addition. The volume phase transition temperature (VPTT) of the nanogels is also measured to discover the effect of polyelectrolyte complexation on the deswelling thermodynamics. These data show that charge neutralization upon PAH addition decreases the VPTT of the nanogel at pH 6.5. However, if an excess amount of PAH is added to the nanogel solution, the VPTT shifts back to higher temperatures due to the formation of a net positive charge in the nanogel network.
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