Molecular diffusion in ternary poly(vinyl alcohol) solutions

Kasia Majerczak, Ophelie Squillace, Zhiwei Shi, Zhanping Zhang, Jason Zhang

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The diffusion kinetics of a molecular probe—rhodamine B—in ternary aqueous solutions containing poly(vinyl alcohol), glycerol, and surfactants was investigated using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and dynamic light scattering. We show that the diffusion characteristics of rhodamine B in such complex systems is determined by a synergistic effect of molecular crowding and intermolecular interactions between chemical species. The presence of glycerol has no noticeable impact on rhodamine B diffusion at low concentration, but significantly slows down the diffusion of rhodamine B above 3.9% (w/v) due to a dominating steric inhibition effect. Furthermore, introducing surfactants (cationic/nonionic/anionic) to the system results in a decreased diffusion coefficient of the molecular probe. In solutions containing nonionic surfactant, this can be explained by an increased crowding effect. For ternary poly(vinyl alcohol) solutions containing cationic or anionic surfactant, surfactant—polymer and surfactant—rhodamine B interactions alongside the crowding effect of the molecules slow down the overall diffusivity of rhodamine B. The results advance our insight of molecular migration in a broad range of industrial complex formulations that incorporate multiple compounds, and highlight the importance of selecting the appropriate additives and surfactants in formulated products.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering
Early online date28 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Dec 2021


  • fluorescence correlation spectroscopy
  • poly (vinyl alcohol)
  • anomalous diffusion
  • crowding effects
  • dynamic light scattering
  • binding effects
  • rhodamine B


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