Borisov, O.V.; Zhulina, E.B.; Leermakers, F.A.M.; Ballauff, M.; Müller, A.H.E.: Conformations and Solution Properties of Star-Branched Polyelectrolytes. Advances in Polymer Science 241 (2011), p. 1-55
Aqueous solutions of star-like polyelectrolytes (PEs) exhibit distinctive features that originate from the topological complexity of branched macromolecules. In a salt-free solution of branched PEs, mobile counterions preferentially localize in the intramolecular volume of branched macroions. Counterion localization manifests itself in a dramatic reduction of the osmotic coefficient in solutions of branched polyions as compared with those of linear PEs. The intramolecular osmotic pressure, created by entrapped counterions, imposes stretched conformations of branches and this leads to dramatic intramolecular conformational transitions upon variations in environmental conditions. In this chapter, we overview the theory of conformations and stimuli-induced conformational transitions in star-like PEs in aqueous solutions and compare these to the data from experiments and Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulations.