Surface plasmon resonance methodology for monitoring polymerization kinetics and morphology changes of brushes-evaluated with poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)

Polymerization from surfaces and the resulting “brushes” have many uses in the development of novel materials and functional interfaces. However, it is difficult to accurately monitor the polymerization rate, which limits the use of polymer brushes in applications where control of thickness is desirable. We present a new methodology based on angular surface plasmon resonance (SPR) which provides real-time measurements of the thickness evolution during atom transfer radical polymerization, using poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) as an example. Our data analysis shows that the growth is linear with a rate of ∼20 nm/min in a water/methanol mixture up to ∼100 nm after which chain termination gradually reduces the growth rate. Further, we introduce an improved method in SPR which makes it possible to determine changes in brush height and refractive index during switching of responsive polymers. The ratio between heights in the coil to globule transition at 32 °C in water was found to be almost 5, independent of the initial absolute height up to ∼200 nm, in agreement with theory. Complementary quartz crystal microbalance and atomic force microscopy data confirm the accuracy of our results. With the methodology presented here the established SPR technique can be used for quantitative characterization of surface-initiated polymerization and responsive polymer brushes.

Publication year: 2017
Authors: G. Emilsson a, R.L. Schoch b, P. Oertle b, K. Xiong a, R.Y. H. Lim b, A.B. Dahlin a

a – Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, 41296 Göteborg, Sweden
b – Biozentrum and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, University of Basel, 4056 Basel, Switzerland

Published in: Applied Surface Science, Vol. 396, p. 384-392
DOI: 10.1016/j.apsusc.2016.10.165


AFM atom transfer radical polymerization conformation change polymerization kinetics protein binding protein resistance QCM-D responsive polymer brushes temperature dependent thermoresponsive thickness


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