On understanding of the Hofmeister effect: How addition of salt alters the stability of temperature responsive polymers in aqueous solutions

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In the present study, differential scanning calorimetry was employed to investigate the temperature induced phase separation process of poly(propylene oxide) in a pure aqueous solution and in the presence of five different potassium salts at three different concentrations. The different salts affected the phase separation temperature in accordance with the Hofmeister series with the three salts, KF, KCl and KBr, inducing a clear salting-out effect, one salt, KSCN, inducing a clear salting-in effect and one borderline salt, KI, showing a salting-in or a salting-out effect depending on the salt concentration. It was further observed that the phase separation enthalpy was almost unaffected by the presence of KF, KCl, KBr and KI, while the presence of KSCN led to a significant decrease in this quantity. This suggests that KF, KCl, KBr and KI have a very moderate influence on the PPO hydration, while KSCN appears to decrease the hydrophobic hydration of the PPO chains. The order of how the salts affect the phase separation temperature is in agreement with data for the partition coefficients of the anions between bulk water and at the air-water interface, but only partially in agreement with data related to ion hydration and water structuring effects. These observations are discussed in relation to existing models of how the different nature of the ion and polymer hydration can lead to effective attractive and repulsive ion-polymer interactions depending of the exact chemistry of the ions and the polymer. It is suggested that the previous confusion about the Hofmeister effect is due to a misleading conceptual picture of how polymer hydration is affected by the presence of ions. It is concluded that the Hofmeister effects, in the present case, can be described by a balance between the effective interactions governed by the asymmetric hydration of ions and hydrophobic polymers. This journal is © 2012 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Original languageEnglish
JournalR S C Advances
Issue number22
Pages (from-to)8297-8305
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Differential scanning calorimetry
  • Hydration
  • Hydrophobicity
  • Ions
  • Phase separation
  • Potassium iodide
  • Propylene
  • Salts
  • Solutions
  • Polymers


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