PLL-Poly(HPMA) Bottlebrush-Based Antifouling Coatings: Three Grafting Routes

Roeven, Esther; Kuzmyn, Andriy R.; Scheres, Luc; Baggerman, Jacob; Smulders, Maarten M.J.; Zuilhof, Han


In this work, we compare three routes to prepare antifouling coatings that consist of poly(l-lysine)-poly(N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide) bottlebrushes. The poly(l-lysine) (PLL) backbone is self-assembled onto the surface by charged-based interactions between the lysine groups and the negatively charged silicon oxide surface, whereas the poly(N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide) [poly(HPMA)] side chains, grown by reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization, provide antifouling properties to the surface. First, the PLL-poly(HPMA) coatings are synthesized in a bottom-up fashion through a grafting-from approach. In this route, the PLL is self-assembled onto a surface, after which a polymerization agent is immobilized, and finally HPMA is polymerized from the surface. In the second explored route, the PLL is modified in solution by a RAFT agent to create a macroinitiator. After self-assembly of this macroinitiator onto the surface, poly(HPMA) is polymerized from the surface by RAFT. In the third and last route, the whole PLL-poly(HPMA) bottlebrush is initially synthesized in solution. To this end, HPMA is polymerized from the macroinitiator in solution and the PLL-poly(HPMA) bottlebrush is then self-assembled onto the surface in just one step (grafting-to approach). Additionally, in this third route, we also design and synthesize a bottlebrush polymer with a PLL backbone and poly(HPMA) side chains, with the latter containing 5% carboxybetaine (CB) monomers that eventually allow for additional (bio)functionalization in solution or after surface immobilization. These three routes are evaluated in terms of ease of synthesis, scalability, ease of characterization, and a preliminary investigation of their antifouling performance. All three coating procedures result in coatings that show antifouling properties in single-protein antifouling tests. This method thus presents a new, simple, versatile, and highly scalable approach for the manufacturing of PLL-based bottlebrush coatings that can be synthesized partly or completely on the surface or in solution, depending on the desired production process and/or application.