Combining nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), dynamic light scattering (DLS), and μs long all-atom simulations with two million particles, we establish a delicate correlation between increased side chain organization of PNIPAm and its collapse in aqueous methanol mixtures. We find that the preferential binding of methanol with PNIPAm side chains, bridging distal monomers along the polymer backbone, results in increased organization. Furthermore, methanol–PNIPAm preferential binding is dominated by hydrogen bonding. Our findings reveal that the collapse of PNIPAm is dominated by enthalpic interactions and that the standard poor solvent (entropic) effects play no major role.

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Published in Soft Matter, v. 12, issue 38, p. 7995-8003.

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