Hollow polyelectrolyte multilayer tubes: mechanical properties and shape changes.

Research paper by Renate R Mueller, Lars L Daehne, Andreas A Fery

Indexed on: 04 May '07Published on: 04 May '07Published in: Journal of Physical Chemistry B


In this paper, novel hollow polyelectrolyte multilayer tubes from poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (PDADMAC), poly(styrene sulfonate) (PSS), and poly(allylamine hydrochloride) (PAH) were prepared: Readily available glass fiber templates are coated with polyelectrolytes using the layer-by-layer technique, followed by subsequent fiber dissolution. Depending on the composition of the polymeric multilayer, stable hollow tubes or tubes showing a pearling instability are observed. This instability corresponds to the Rayleigh instability and is a consequence of an increased mobility of the polyelectrolyte chains within the multilayer. The well-defined stable tubes were characterized with fluorescence microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The tubes were found to be remarkably free of defects, which results in an impermeable tube wall for even low molecular weight molecules. The mechanical properties of the tubes were determined with AFM force spectroscopy in water, and because continuum mechanical models apply, the Young's modulus of the wall material was determined. Additionally, scaling relations for the dependency of tube stiffness on diameter and wall thickness were validated. Because both parameters can be experimentally controlled by our approach, the deformability of the tubes can be varied over a broad range and adjusted for the particular needs.