Functional polymers that respond to small changes in environmental stimuli with large changes in their structure and properties are often called "intelligent" polymers. We have modified material surfaces with such polymers and used them in separation systems. Silica beads were modified with the temperature-responsive polymer poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm). PNIPAAm-grafted surfaces exhibited temperature-driven alterations of hydrophilic-hydrophobic surface-properties. Using this feature, PNIPAAm and related temperature-responsive polymers have been used to generate temperature-sensitive stationary phases for chromatographic separations. We attached several different functional polymers, including temperature- and pH-responsive polymers, to silica beads. These temperature-responsive stationary phases are useful in development of separation methods since adjusting the temperature represents an extra tool for optimizing the selectivity. Applications of thermally responsive columns for separations in the HPLC mode are demonstrated.
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