Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Faculty Research


Synthesis and Characterization of Antifouling Poly(N-acryloylaminoethoxyethanol) with Ultralow Protein Adsorption and Cell Attachment

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Fall 9-2-2014


Rational design of effective antifouling polymers is challenging but important for many fundamental and applied applications. Herein we synthesize and characterize an N-acryloylaminoethoxyethanol (AAEE) monomer, which integrates three hydrophilic groups of hydroxyl, amide, and ethylene glycol in the same material. AAEE monomers were further grafted and polymerized on gold substrates to form polyAAEE brushes with well-controlled thickness via surface-initiated atomic transfer radical polymerization (SI-ATRP), with particular attention to a better understanding of the molecular structure-antifouling property relationship of hydroxyl-acrylic-based polymers. The surface hydrophilicity and antifouling properties of polyAAEE brushes as a function of film thickness are studied by combined experimental and computational methods including surface plasmon resonance (SPR) sensors, atomic force microscopy (AFM), cell adhesion assay, and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. With the optimal polymer film thicknesses (similar to 10-40 nm), polyAAEE-grafted surfaces can effectively resist protein adsorption from single-protein solutions and undiluted human blood plasma and serum to a nonfouling level (i.e., <0.3 ng/cm(2)). The polyAAEE brushes also highly resist mammalian cell attachment up to 3 days. MD simulations confirm that the integration of three hydrophilic groups induce a stronger and closer hydration layer around polyAAEE, revealing a positive relationship between surface hydration and antifouling properties. The molecular structure-antifouling properties relationship of a series of hydroxyl-acrylic-based polymers is also discussed. This work hopefully provides a promising structural motif for the design of new effective antifouling materials beyond traditional ethylene glycol-based antifouling materials.

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