Expanding the Polymer Mechanochemistry Toolbox through Surface-Initiated Polymerization
Surface-initiated polymerizations represent a versatile toolbox to generate densely grafted assemblies of chain end-tethered polymers. At sufficiently short interchain distances, surface-grafted polymers are forced into an extended chain conformation, which forms the basis of several unique properties, including their ability to withstand efficiently biofouling or to act as low friction coatings. While the effect on materials properties is well-established, only relatively recently first reports have appeared describing that chain stretching in surface-grafted polymer films also impacts chemical stability/reactivity. This Viewpoint presents surface-initiated polymerization as an alternative polymer mechanochemical tool. The absence of an external force field to induce chain elongation and the possibility to modulate chain stretching by varying brush molecular weight and grafting density, in conjunction with electrostatic interactions and nanoinclusions that may be present inside the polymeric grafts, make surface-initiated polymerization an attractive tool to both study and understand the effects of polymer chain conformation on the stability/reactivity of surface-grafted polymers.