The interactions between charged alkylacrylamide gels of varying hydrophobicity and charge density and the oppositely charged surfactant hexadecyltrimethylammonium (C(16)TA(+)) have been investigated to determine the conditions necessary to induce excess surfactant binding (beyond charge neutralization) and resolubilization of the polymer-surfactant complex. In all cases, an initial gel collapse occurred due to neutralization of the charges in the gel, and the volume of the collapsed gel was smaller than that of the corresponding neutral gel at the same surfactant concentration, as a result of the formation of interchain micellar cross-links. For gels containing neutral repeating units that were found previously to bind C(16)TA(+), a subsequent sharp reswelling of the gel network occurred, beginning at a critical surfactant concentration called the cac(2). The reswelling is due to binding of excess surfactant, which results in the gels becoming recharged. For gels whose neutral repeating units do not bind C(16)TA(+), there was no reswelling behavior (no cac(2)), but there was a gradual increase of the swelling back to that of the equivalent neutral gel with increasing surfactant concentration. The results are interpreted in terms of the expected surfactant binding isotherm.
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