Equilibrium conformations of annealed star-branched polyelectrolytes (polyacids) are calculated with a numerical self-consistent-field (SCF) model. From the calculations we obtain also the size and charge of annealed polyelectrolyte stars as a function of the number of arms, pH, and the ionic strength. The results are compared with predictions from analytical theory. Upon varying the number of branches or the ionic strength of the solution, the star size changes nonmonotonically, which is in agreement with the analytical predictions. The salt concentration at this maximum is directly related to the charge density of the star. The internal structural properties of the star corona (the polymer density, the ionization profiles, and the distribution of the end points) are analyzed. The shape of the density profiles indicates increasing local stretching of the branches as a function of the distance from the star center. Furthermore, a bimodal end-point distribution is found and interpreted in analogy to that predicted earlier by analytical SCF theory for planar polyelectrolyte brushes. Results of recent experiments with annealed star-shaped micelles are discussed on the basis of our numerical model calculations.
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