Transport phenomena in hydrogel membranes
In this thesis the factors surrounding the permeation of alkali and alkaline earth metal salts through hydrogel membranes are investigated. Although of relevance to aqueous separations in general, it was with their potential application in sensors that this work was particularly concerned. In order to study the effect that the nature of the solute has on the transport process, a single polymer matrix, poly (2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate), was initially studied. The influence of cation variation in the presence of a fixed anion was looked at, followed by the effect of the anion in the presence of a fixed cation. The anion was found to possess the dominant influence and tended to subsume any influence by the cation. This is explained in terms of the structure-making and structure-breaking characteristics of the ions in their solute-water interactions. Analogies in the transport behaviour of the salts are made with the Hofmeister series. The effect of the chemical composition of the polymer backbone on the water structuring in the hydrogel and, consequently, transport through the membrane, was investigated by preparing a series of poly (2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) copolymer membranes and determining the permeability coefficient of salts with a fixed anion. The results were discussed in terms of the `free-volume' model of permeation and the water structuring of the polymer backbone. The ability of ionophores to selectively modulate the permeation of salts through hydrogel membranes was also examined. The results indicated that a dualsorption model was in operation. Finally, hydrogels were used as membrane overlays on coated wire ion-selective electrodes that employed conventional plasticised-PVC-valinomycin based sensing membranes. The hydrogel overlays were found to affect the access of the analyte but not the underlying electrochemistry.