Direct measurement of the counterion distribution within swollen polyelectrolyte films

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The depth profile of the counterion concentration within thin polyelectrolyte films was measured in situ using contrast variant specular neutron reflectivity to characterize the initial swelling stage of the film dissolution. We find substantial counterion depletion near the substrate and enrichment near the periphery of the film extending into the solution. These observations challenge our understanding of the charge distribution in polyelectrolyte films and are important for understanding film dissolution in medical and technological applications. © 2005 American Chemical Society.