The structural and dynamical properties of oil-in-water (O/W) microemulsions (MEs) modified with telechelic polymers of different functionality (e.g., number of hydrophobically modified arms, f) were studied by means of dynamic light scattering (DLS), small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), and high frequency rheology measurements as a function of the polymer architecture and the amount of added polymer. For this purpose, we employed tailor-made hydrophobically end-capped poly(N,N-dimethylacrylamide) star polymers of a variable number of endcaps, f, of different alkyl chain lengths, synthesized by the reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer method. The addition of the different end-capped polymers to an uncharged ME of O/W droplets leads to a large enhancement of the viscosity of the systems. SANS experiments show that the O/W ME droplets are not changed upon the addition of the polymer, and its presence only changes the interdroplet interactions. The viscosity increases largely upon addition of a polymer, and this enhancement depends pronouncedly on the alkyl length of the hydrophobic sticker as it controls the residence time in a ME droplet. Similarly, the high frequency modulus G(0) depends on the amount of added polymer but not on the sticker length. G(0) was found to be directly proportional to f - 1. The onset of network formation is shifted to a lower number of stickers per ME droplet with increasing f, and the network formation becomes more effective. Thus, the dynamics of network formation are controlled by the polymer architecture. The effect on the dynamics seen by DLS is even more pronounced. Upon increasing the polymer concentration, slower relaxation modes appear that become especially pronounced with increasing number of arms. The relaxation dynamics are correlated to the rheological relaxation, and both are controlled by the polymer architecture
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