Role of the ratio of biopolyelectrolyte persistence length to nanoparticle size in the structural tuning of electrostatic complexes

Abstract : PACS 62.23.St Complex nanostructures, including patterned or assembled PACS 82.35.Rs Polyelectrolytes PACS 83.85.Hf X-ray and neutron scattering Abstract. Aggregation of nanoparticles of given size R induced by addition of a polymer strongly depends on its degree of rigidity. This is shown here on a large variety of silica nanoparticle self-assemblies obtained by electrostatic complexation with carefully selected oppositely charged bio-polyelectrolytes of different rigidity. The effective rigidity is quantified by the total persistence length L T representing the sum of the intrinsic (L p) and electrostatic (L e) polyelectrolyte persistence length, which depends on the screening, i.e., on ionic strength due to counterions and external salt concentrations. We experimentally show for the first time that the ratio L T /R is the main tuning parameter that controls the fractal dimension D f of the nanoparticles self-assemblies, which is determined using small-angle neutron scattering: (i) For L T /R<0.3 (obtained with flexible poly-ʟ-lysine in the presence of an excess of salt), chain flexibility promotes easy wrapping around nanoparticles in excess hence ramified structures with D f ~2. (ii) For 0.31, L e is strongly increased due to the absence of salt and repulsions between nanoparticles cannot be compensated by the polyelectrolyte wrapping, which allow a spacing between nanoparticles and the formation of one dimensional pearl necklace complexes. (iv) Finally, electrostatic 2 screening, i.e. ionic strength, turned out to be a reliable way of controlling D f and the phase diagram behavior. It finely tunes the short-range interparticle potential, resulting in larger fractal dimensions at higher ionic strength.
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Li Shi, Florent Carn, François Boué, Eric Buhler. Role of the ratio of biopolyelectrolyte persistence length to nanoparticle size in the structural tuning of electrostatic complexes. Physical Review E , American Physical Society (APS), 2016, Phys Rev E, 94 (3), pp.032504. ⟨hal-01399544⟩

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