The complete and reversible charge-selective sequestration of fluorophores by a weak polyelectrolyte brush, poly(2-(dimethylamino)ethylmethacrylate) (PDMAEMA) was demonstrated using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS). The chemistry and thickness of the weak polyelectrolyte PDMAEMA was tuned reversibly between neutral and cationic polymer forms. Thus, by switching the pH successively, the brush architecture was tuned to selectively trap and release anionic dye probes while continuously excluding cationic molecules. In addition, line-scan FCS was implemented and applied for the first time to a synthetic polymer system and used to identify a new, slower diffusion time on the order of seconds for the sequestered anionic probe under acidic conditions. These results, which quantify the selective sequestration properties of the PDMAEMA brush, are important because they enable a better understanding of transport in polymers and establish a spectroscopic means of evaluating materials with proposed applications in separations science, charge storage/release, and environmental remediation.
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