Infoscience

Thesis

Functional polymer brushes via surface-initiated controlled radical polymerizations

The term polymer brush refers to a well defined arrangement of polymer chains, which are tethered with one end to an interface and usually the surface of a solid substrate. Due to steric repulsion the polymer chains furthermore adopt a defined, stretched chain conformation, which significantly differs from the random walk conformation of free polymer chains in solution or in conventionally solution casted polymer coatings. From a structural point of view polymer brushes can therefore be regarded as the most defined type of polymer coating that can currently be realized. Especially the combination of surface-initiated polymerizations (SIP) with modern, controlled polymerization methods thereby allows tailoring the structure of the polymer brushes almost on the molecular level. Specifically precise control over the thickness, composition, chain architecture, grafting density and via the use of lithographic techniques also over the topography of the brushes can be achieved. This high degree of control over the structural and implicated (physico-)chemical properties of the brush allows at the same time tailoring and fine tuning the interfacial properties of the brush. This thesis describes the systematic exploitation of well-defined polymer brushes as functional coatings with fine-tuned physicochemical properties to direct and control the interaction with and the response of specific biological, bioanalytical and even reactive chemical environments. In detail the use of surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization (SI-ATRP) for the fabrication of functional polymer brushes will be presented. These brushes were used as highly defined coatings in various applications ranging from biomedical and bioanalytical applications to biomimetic materials fabrication (Figure 1). Figure 1 Numerous synthetic approaches for the preparation of polymer brushes have been described in the literature. Chapter 2 will therefore present a summary of the most important types of surface-initiated polymerizations, focusing especially on controlled SIP methods and SI-ATRP. Chapter 3 describes a chemoselective and specific immobilization strategy to decorate intrinsically bioinert polymer brushes with proteins of interest in a defined orientation and density. Specifically the resulting substrates represent attractive candidates for the realization of protein microarrays. In view of this application protein-small molecule and protein-protein interactions as well as posttranslational modifications were analyzed within a feasibility study. Due to their well-defined structure polymer brushes represent also attractive candidates for the realization of molecularly defined cell adhesion substrates for tissue engineering or as highly defined biophysical model system to analyze cell adhesion and mechanics. Chapter 4 describes the decoration of intrinsically bioinert polymer brushes with small peptide ligands with defined density to induce integrin specific cell adhesion on the brushes. Peptide functionalized polymer brushes could be readily endothelialized and adhering cell layers have shown to preserve their homeostatic ability to respond to an applied mechanical stimulus in a physiological manner. In Chapter 5 the limitations of high density polymer brushes in biomedical applications were assessed by analyzing their stability under in vitro cell culture conditions. Intrinsically bioinert high density polymer brushes were found to degraft from glass or silicon substrates upon swelling in good solvents, which lead to deterioration of the bioinert properties of the substrate. The degrafting of the brushes might be connected to swelling induced mechanical activation of chemical bonds, which link the brushes to the substrate. Chapter 6 describes the transfer of the developed SIP approach onto flexible PDMS substrates by exploiting the formation of interpenetrating networks of ATRP-initiator siloxane and PDMS. The modification of the PDMS substrates with hydrophilic brushes effectively reduces the unspecific protein adsorption on the substrates. This approach might therefore represent an attractive and facile route for the surface modification of miniaturized PDMS devices for biomedical or bioanalytical applications. In Chapter 7 the systematic development of a reliable and robust protocol for the aqueous SI-ATRP of sodium methacrylate is presented, which gives access to poly(methacrylic acid) (PMAA) brushes with defined molecular weight and grafting density. The resulting brushes were assessed for their ability to direct the mineralization of calcium carbonate. Chapter 8 describes the use of photolithographically patterned poly(methacrylic acid) brushes as biomimetic, acidic macromolecular matrix to fabricate microstructured calcite thin films that are an exact 3D replica of the PMAA brush. The presented strategy relies on three key elements: (i) the use of photolithographic techniques to prepare microstructured PMAA brushes; (ii) the ability of PMAA brushes to stabilize amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) and (iii) the possibility to convert the metastable ACC phase into a polycrystalline calcite film via a thermal treatment.

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