Curved polymer and polyelectrolyte brushes beyond the Daoud-Cotton model

Eur Phys J E Soft Matter. 2006 Jul;20(3):243-56. doi: 10.1140/epje/i2006-10013-5. Epub 2006 Jul 24.

Abstract

We revise the classical Daoud-Cotton (DC) model to describe conformations of polymer and polyelectrolyte chains end-grafted to convex spherical and cylindrical surfaces. In the framework of the DC model, local stretching of chains in the brush does not depend on the degree of polymerization of grafted chains, and the polymer density profile follows a single-exponent power law. This model, however, does not correspond to a minimum in free energy of the curved brush. The nonlocal (NL) approximation exploited in the present paper implies the minimization of the overall free energy of the brush and predicts that the polymer density profile does not follow a single-exponent power law. In the limit of large surface curvature the NL approximation provides the same scaling laws for brush thickness and free energy as the local DC model. Numerical prefactors are however different. Extra extension of chains in the brush interior region leads to larger equilibrium brush thickness and lower free energy per chain. A significant difference between outcomes of the two models is found for brushes formed by ionic polymers, particularly for weakly dissociating (p H-sensitive) polyelectrolytes at low solution salinity.