Molecular tailoring of solid surfaces
The overall performance of a material can be dramatically improved by tailoring its surface at the molecular level. The aim of this project was to develop a universal technique for attaching dendrimers (well-defined, nanoscale, functional polymers) and Jeffamines® (high molecular weight polymer chains) to the surface of any shaped solid substrate. This desire for controlled functionalization is ultimately driven by the need to improve material compatability in various biomedical applications. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used initially to study the packing and structure of Langmuir-Blodgett films on surfaces, and subsequently resulted in the first visualization of individual, spherically shaped, nanoscopic polyamidoamine dendrimers. The next goal was to develop a methodology for attaching such macromolecules to inert surfaces. Thin copolymer films were deposited onto solid substrates to produce materials with a fixed concentration of surface anhydride groups. Vapor-phase functionalization reactions were then carried out with trifluorinated amines to confirm the viability of this technique to bond molecules to surfaces. Finally, pulsed plasma polymerization of maleic anhydride took this approach one stage further, by forming well-adhered polymer films containing a predetermined concentration of reactive anhydride groups. Subsequent functionalization reactions led to the secure attachment of dendrimers and Jeffamines® at any desired packing density. An alternative route to biocompatibilization used 1,2-ethanedithiol to yield thiolated surfaces containing very high polymeric sulfur: carbon ratios.