Highly moisture resistant super gas barrier polyelectrolyte complex thin film

Polyelectrolyte complex (PEC) thin films have demonstrated remarkable oxygen barrier properties, but the moisture sensitivity from the hydrophilic nature of polyelectrolytes is a significant drawback. In this study, various molar ratios (1:1, 1:2, and 1:3) of branched polyethyleneimine (PEI) and poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) were prepared as one-pot coating solutions, which can be deposited via a simple dip-coating process and cured with a citric acid buffer solution, which increases the charge density of PEI and triggers complexation. As-prepared conformal thin films impart excellent gas barrier, high modulus, and high moisture resistance. Undetectable oxygen transmission rate (OTR), at both 0% and 90% RH, can be achieved with a PEI:PAA molar ratio of 1:1 and buffer curing at pH 3. The strong complexation from ionic crosslinking creates an unusually dense thin film that is promising for various packaging applications (food, electronics, etc.). This thin film exhibits one of the best-ever polymer-based oxygen barriers at high humidity.

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H. C. Chiang, E. T. Iverson, K. Schmieg, D. L. Stevens, J. C. Grunlan, Journal of Applied Polymer Science2022, 140, e53473.