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Adv Colloid Interface Sci. 2001 Sep 3;92(1-3):195-233.

Microemulsion polymerization of styrene in the presence of a cationic emulsifier.

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Polymer Institute, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava.


The principal subject discussed in the current paper is the radical polymerization of styrene in the three- and four component microemulsions stabilized by a cationic emulsifier. Polymerization in the o/w microemulsion is a new polymerization technique which allows to prepare the polymer latexes with the very high particle interface area and narrow particle size distribution. Polymers formed are very large with a very broad molecular weight distribution. In emulsion and microemulsion polymerizations, the reaction takes place in a large number of isolated loci dispersed in the continuous aqueous phase. However, in spite of the similarities between emulsion and microemulsion polymerization, there are large differences caused by the much larger amount of emulsifier in the latter process. In the emulsion polymerization there are three rate intervals. In the microemulsion polymerization only two reaction rate intervals are commonly detected: first, the polymerization rate increases rapidly with the reaction time and then decreases steadily. Essential features of microemulsion polymerization are as follows: (1) polymerization proceeds under non-stationary state conditions; (2) size and particle concentration increases throughout the course of polymerization; (3) chain-transfer to monomer/exit of transferred monomeric radical/radical re-entry events are operative; and (4) molecular weight is independent of conversion and distribution of resulting polymer is very broad. The number of microdroplets or monomer-starved micelles at higher conversion is high and they persist throughout the reaction. The high emulsifier/water ratio ensures that the emulsifier is undissociated and can penetrate into the microdroplets. The presence of a large amount of emulsifier strongly influences the reaction kinetics and the particle nucleation. The mixed mode particle nucleation is assumed to govern the polymerization process. At low emulsifier concentration the micellar nucleation is dominant while at a high emulsifier concentration the interaction-like homogeneous nucleation is operative. Furthermore, the paper is focused on the initiation and nucleation mechanisms, location of initiation locus, and growth and deactivation of latex particles. Furthermore, the relationship between kinetic and molecular weight parameters of the microemulsion polymerization process and colloidal (water/particle interface) parameters is discussed. In particular, we follow the effect of initiator and emulsifier type and concentration on the polymerization process. Besides, the effects of monomer concentration and additives are also evaluated.

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