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Thermoresponsive behavior of poly(n-isopropylacrylamide) hydrogels containing gold nanostructures.


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      We report the changes in the structure and thermoresponsive behavior of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAm) hydrogels when gold nanostructures are synthesized in situ within the hydrogel matrix. Cross-linked PNIPAm hydrogels were synthesized using NIPAm and 0.00-3.50% (w/w versus NIPAm) of N,N'-methylenebisacrylamide (MBAm) and/or N,N'-cystaminebisacrylamide (CBAm) as cross-linking agents. The hydrogels were soaked in potassium tetrachloroaurate to introduce gold ions. The hydrogels containing Au3+ were then immersed in a sodium borohydride solution to reduce the gold ions. Infrared spectroscopy, UV-visible spectroscopy, and equilibrium swelling were used to examine the structural/physical differences between gels of different compositions; UV-visible spectroscopy and mass measurements were used to observe the kinetics and thermodynamics of the hydrogel volume phase transition. These studies revealed several differences in the physical characteristics and thermoresponsive behavior of hydrogels based on cross-linker identity and the presence or absence of gold nanostructures. Hydrogels with gold nanostructures and high CBAm and low MBAm content have equilibrium swelling masses 3-20 times their native analogues. In comparison, gold-containing hydrogels with high MBAm and low CBAm content have swelling masses that are equal to their native analogues. Additionally, the gold-containing PNIPAm hydrogels cross-linked with only CBAm have a deswelling temperature of approximately 40 degrees C, approximately 8 degrees C above the samples cross-linked with only MBAm. Varying the CBAm content and introducing gold enables tuning of the deswelling temperature.

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