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Langmuir. 2005 Apr 12;21(8):3605-12.

Photochemical modification and patterning of polymer surfaces by surface adsorption of photoactive block copolymers.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Columbia University, 500 West 120th Street, MC4721, New York, New York 10027, USA.


We report a simple photolithographic approach for the creation and micropatterning of chemical functionality on polymer surfaces by use of surface-active block copolymers that contain protected photoactive functional groups. The block copolymers self-assemble at the substrate-air interface to generate a surface that is initially hydrophobic with low surface tension but that can be rendered hydrophilic and functional by photodeprotection with UV radiation. The block copolymer employed, poly(styrene-b-tert butyl acrylate), segregates preferentially to the surface of a polystyrene substrate because of the low surface tension of the polyacrylate blocks. The strong adsorption of block copolymers causes a bilayer structure to form presenting a photoactive polyacrylate layer at the surface. In the example described, the tert-butyl ester groups on the polyacrylate blocks are deprotected by exposure to UV radiation in the presence of added photoacid generators to form surface carboxylic acid groups. Surface micropatterns of carboxylic acid groups are generated by UV exposure through a contact mask. The success of surface chemical modification and pattern formation is demonstrated by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and contact angle measurements along with imaging by optical and fluorescence microscopy methods. The resultant chemically patterned surfaces are then used to template patterns of various biomolecules by means of selective adsorption, covalent bonding and molecular recognition mechanisms. The surface modification/patterning concept can be applied to virtually any polymeric substrate because protected functional groups have intrinsically low surface tensions, rendering properly designed block copolymers surface active in almost all polymeric substrates.

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