Swelling Behavior and Nanomechanical Properties of (Peptide-Modified) Poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) and Poly(poly(ethylene glycol) methacrylate) Brushes
Poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (PHEMA) and poly(poly(ethylene glycol) methacrylate) (PPEGMA) brushes represent a class of thin, surface-tethered polymer films that have been extensively used e.g. to generate non-biofouling surfaces or as model systems to study fundamental biointerfacial questions related to cell-surface interactions. As the properties of PHEMA and PPEGMA brushes depend on the hydration and swelling of these thin films, it is important to understand the influence of basic structural parameters such as the composition of the polymer brush, the film thickness, or grafting density on these phenomena. This article reports results of a series of experiments that were performed to investigate the swelling behavior and mechanical properties of a diverse library of PHEMA and PPEGMA brushes covering a range of film thicknesses and grafting densities. The swelling ratios of the PHEMA and PPEGMA brushes were determined by ellipsometry and neutron reflectivity experiments and ranged from similar to 1.5 to similar to 5.0. Decreasing the grafting density and decreasing the film thickness generally results in an increase in the swelling ratio. Modification of the PHEMA and PPEGMA brushes with the cell adhesive RGD peptide ligand was found to result in a decrease in the swelling ratio. The neutron reflectivity experiments further revealed that solvated PHEMA and PPEGMA brushes are best described by a two-layer model, consisting of a polymer-rich layer close to the substrate and a second layer that is swollen to a much higher degree at the brush water interface.