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Biomacromolecules. 2014 Aug 11;15(8):3052-60. doi: 10.1021/bm500663w. Epub 2014 Jul 14.

Dual responsive pickering emulsion stabilized by poly[2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate] grafted cellulose nanocrystals.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Waterloo , 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada.


A weak polyelectrolyte, poly[2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate] (PDMAEMA), was grafted onto the surface of cellulose nanocrystals via free radical polymerization. The resultant suspension of PDMAEMA-grafted-cellulose nanocrystals (PDMAEMA-g-CNC) possessed pH-responsive properties. The grafting was confirmed by FTIR, potentiometric titration, elementary analysis, and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA); the surface and interfacial properties of the modified particles were characterized by surface tensiometer. Compared to pristine cellulose nanocrystals, modified CNC significantly reduced the surface and interfacial tensions. Stable heptane-in-water and toluene-in-water emulsions were prepared with PDMAEMA-g-CNC. Various factors, such as polarity of solvents, concentration of particles, electrolytes, and pH, on the properties of the emulsions were investigated. Using Nile Red as a florescence probe, the stability of the emulsions as a function of pH and temperature was elucidated. It was deduced that PDMAEMA chains promoted the stability of emulsion droplets and their chain conformation varied with pH and temperature to trigger the emulsification and demulsification of oil droplets. Interestingly, for heptane system, the macroscopic colors varied depending on the pH condition, while the color of the toluene system remained the same. Reversible emulsion systems that responded to pH were observed and a thermoresponsive Pickering emulsion system was demonstrated.

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