Using viscosity and dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurements, we monitored the changes in the properties of dispersions of chitosan (a cationic polysaccharide) in acidic solution over a period of up to 700 h. Different polymer concentrations, weight average molecular weights, and degrees of deacetylation were examined. We found that the solution rheology and chitosan aggregates continue to change even up to 700 h. It was observed, remarkably, using both capillary and cone and plate viscometry that the viscosity decreased significantly during the storage period of the chitosan dispersions, with a rapid initial decrease and a slow approach to the steady state value. DLS measurements over this period could be interpreted in terms of a gradual decrease in the size of the chitosan aggregates in the dispersion. This behavior is puzzling, insofar as one expects the dissolution of compact polymer aggregates with time into individual polymer chains to increase the viscosity rather than decrease it as observed: We attribute this apparently anomalous behavior to the fact that the chitosan aggregates are rigid crystalline rod-like entities, which dissolved with time from dispersion of overlapping rods (with high viscosity) into solution of individual random coils (with lower viscosity). A detailed model comparing the hydrodynamic behavior of the initial overlapping rod-like aggregates with the subsequent free coils in solution is in semi-quantitative agreement with our observation.

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