Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Bin Zhao

Committee Members

Jimmy W. Mays, Michael D. Best, Hong Guo


This dissertation presents the synthesis of a series of thermo- and pH-sensitive hydrophilic block copolymers and the study of their solution behavior in water. By incorporating a small amount of weak acid or base groups into the thermosensitive block(s) of a hydrophilic block copolymer, the LCST of the thermosensitive block(s) can be modified by changing the solution pH. Accordingly, the critical micellization temperature (CMT) and the sol-gel transition temperature (Tsol-gel) of the block copolymer in water can be tuned. Chapter 1 describes the synthesis of thermo- and pH-sensitive poly(methoxydi(ethylene glycol) methacrylate-co-methacrylic acid)-b-PEO-bpoly( methoxydi(ethylene glycol) methacrylate co-methacrylic acid) and the study of sol-gel transitions of its aqueous solutions at various pH values. The CMT of the 0.2 wt% solution and the Tsol-gel of the 12.0 wt% solution of this copolymer can be varied over a large temperature range. By judiciously controlling temperature and pH, multiple sol-gel-sol transitions were realized. Chapter 2 presents a systematic study of pH effect on rheological properties of micellar gels formed from 10.0 wt% aqueous solutions of thermo- and pH-sensitive poly(ethoxydi(ethylene glycol) acrylate-co-acrylic acid)-b-PEO-b-poly(ethoxydi(ethylene glycol) acrylate-co-acrylic acid). With the increase of pH, the sol-gel transition became broader. The plateau moduli (GN) evaluated from frequency sweeps at T/Tsol-gel of 1.025, 1.032, and 1.039 decreased with the increase of pH from 3.00 to 5.40 with the largest drop observed at pH = ~ 4.7. The decrease in GN reflects the reduction of the number of bridging chains. The ionization of carboxylic acid introduced charges onto the thermosensitive blocks and made the polymer more hydrophilic, facilitating the formation of loops and dangling chains. Chapter 3 presents the synthesis of PEO-b-poly(methoxydi(ethylene glycol)methacrylate-co-2-(N-methyl-N-(4-pyridyl)amino)ethyl methacrylate) with the thermosensitive block containing a catalytic 4-N,N-dialkylaminopyridine and the study of the effect of thermo-induced micellization on its activity in the hydrolysis of pnitrophenyl acetate. The CMTs of this copolymer at pH of 7.06 and 7.56 were 40 and 37 °C, respectively. Below CMT, the logarithm of initial hydrolysis rate changed linearly with 1/T. Above CMT, the reaction rate leveled off, which is presumably because it was controlled by mass transport to the core of micelles above CMT.

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