Rational analysis of physico-chemical parameters affecting recognition properties of molecularly imprinted polymers
Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are new type of materials with tailor made molecular recognition sites. Despite their enormous potential in separations, sensing and pharmaceutical industry, MIPs have so far failed to achieve significant commercial application. This is in part due to lack of understanding of MIPs at a molecular level, strong binding site heterogeneity and poor compatibility with aqueous solvents. This work is aimed at improving overall MIP performance and quality, with special focus on the improvement of compatibility with aqueous environment. Compatibility with aqueous solvents was achieved by (i) employing a molecular modelling step prior to polynerisation, (ii) by studying the ionic properties of the polymer and (iii) by analysis of the influence of different polymerisation conditions. The study of the pressure and magnetic field effects on polymers allowed us to produce materials with increased stability, lower binding site heterogeneity and higher affinity, as compared to standard imprinted materials. To minimise site heterogeneity imprinted nanoparticles with ca. 90 kDa were produced using a living polymerisation method. The particles with essentially uniform population of binding sites were obtained by employing affinity chromatography with immobilised template. As a model system variety of drugs were imprinted with the polymers being able to discriminate between closely related structural analogues in aqueous media. This work had substantial effect on success of project Pisarro - Piezoelectric Sensing Arrays for Biomolecular Interactions and Gas Monitoring where range of imprinted polymers were designed with high affinity to drugs of abuse. Currently 1 work is in progress aimed at application of these materials in commercial sensors for forensic use.