Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-based sulfonated polyurethanes bearing either sulfonated soft segments (SSSPU) or sulfonated hard segments (SHSPU) were synthesized using sulfonated monomers. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) revealed that sulfonate anions either in the soft segments or hard segments both increased the glass transition temperatures (T g's) of the soft segments and suppressed their crystallization. Moreover, dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) and tensile analysis demonstrated that SSSPU possessed a higher modulus and tensile strength relative to SHSPU. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy revealed that hydrogen bonding interactions in SHSPU were suppressed compared to SSSPU and noncharged PU. This observation suggested a high level of phase-mixing for SHSPU. In addition, atomic force microscopy (AFM) phase images revealed that both SSSPU and noncharged PU formed well-defined microphase-separated morphologies, where the hard segments phase-separated into needle-like hard domains at the nanoscale. However, SHSPU showed a phase-mixed morphology, which was attributed to increased compatibility of polar PEG soft segments with sulfonated ionic hard segments and disruption of hydrogen bonds in the hard segment. The phase-mixed morphology of SHSPU was further demonstrated using small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), which showed a featureless X-ray scattering profile. In contrast, SAXS profiles of SSSPU and noncharged PU demonstrated microphase-separated morphologies. Moreover, SSSPU also displayed a broad ionomer peak ranging in q = 1-2 nm -1, which resulted from the sodium sulfonate ion pair association in the polar PEG soft phase. Morphologies of sulfonated polyurethanes correlated well with thermal and mechanical properties.
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