Overcoming confinement limited swelling in hydrogel thin films using supramolecular interactions

Clinton G. Wiener, R. A. Weiss, Bryan D. Vogt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The thin film behavior of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-stat-2-(N- ethylperfluorooctane sulfonamido)ethyl acrylate) (NIPAAm-stat-FOSA) based hydrogels containing 5 mol% FOSA was elucidated using quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D) in combination with spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE) through examination of the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) and temperature dependent swelling for (dry) thicknesses ranging from 10 nm to 121 nm. For all thin films measured, the LCST was shown to slightly increase (>3 °C) in comparison to that of the bulk sample. However for these films, the increase in LCST was statistically identical, irrespective of thickness. Surprisingly, the volumetric swelling of the hydrogel in thin films, even at temperatures less than the LCST, was similar (within 20%) to the volumetric swelling of the bulk hydrogel, despite the expected significant decrease associated with the hydrogel being constrained by the substrate as predicted by one dimensional Flory-Rehner theory. We attribute this enhancement in swelling compared to theoretical expectations to the ability of the hydrophobic crosslinks to re-arrange under stress, which provides a mechanism to alleviate the decreased dimensionality imposed by the substrate; this mechanism is consistent with a large hysteresis in the swelling when cycling between 35 °C and 5 °C. Unlike the LCST, the swelling ratio increases with decreasing film thickness. At low temperatures (below the LCST), the volume swelling ratio increased from 3.9 to 4.9, while at temperatures above the LCST the swelling ratio increased from 1.5 to 2.5 when the film thickness decreased from 121 nm to 10 nm. The combination of facile processing through solution casting without the need for additional crosslinking chemistry and limited thickness dependent variation of swelling and LCST behavior in these physically crosslinked hydrogels makes these materials attractive for applications requiring thermoresponsive soft coatings. This journal is

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6705-6712
Number of pages8
JournalSoft matter
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 21 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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