We report a Compton scattering study on the molecular-level structural changes of aqueous poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) across the conformational phase transition. PNIPAM is a thermoresponsive polymer that changes its conformation in water from the hydrophilic coil state to the collapsed hydrophobic globule state at 32 °C. Combined with density functional theory calculations, the Compton scattering experiments detect two type of changes in the phase transition. The amount of hydrogen bonds is found to reduce, and an elongation of the internal covalent bond lengths is observed. The elongation of the bonds indicates that not only the hydrogen bonding changes but there are other processes, most likely related to hydrophobic interaction, that should be taken into account in the phase transition.
Juurinen, I., Galambosi, S., Anghelescu-Hakala, A., Koskelo, J., Honkimäki, V., Hämäläinen, K., Huotari, S., & Hakala, M. (2014). Molecular-level changes of aqueous poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) in phase transition. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 118(20), 5518-5523. https://doi.org/10.1021/jp501913p