Dopamine-Based Copolymer Bottlebrushes for Functional Adhesives: Synthesis, Characterization, and Applications in Surface Engineering of Antifouling Polyethylene

Roland Milatz, Joost Duvigneau* (Corresponding Author), Gyula Julius Vancso* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Nonpolar materials like polyolefins are notoriously challenging substrates for surface modification. However, this challenge is not observed in nature. Barnacle shells and mussels, for example, utilize catechol-based chemistry to fasten themselves onto all kinds of materials, such as boat hulls or plastic waste. Here, a design is proposed, synthesized, and demonstrated for a class of catechol-containing copolymers (terpolymers) for surface functionalization of polyolefins. Dopamine methacrylamide (DOMA), a catechol-containing monomer, is incorporated into a polymer chain together with methyl methacrylate (MMA) and 2-(2-bromoisobutyryloxy)ethyl methacrylate (BIEM). DOMA serves as adhesion points, BIEM provides functional sites for subsequent “grafting from” reactions, and MMA provides the possibility for concentration and conformation adjustment. First, the adhesive capabilities of DOMA are demonstrated by varying its content in the copolymer. Then, terpolymers are spin-coated on model Si substrates. Subsequently, the atom transfer initiator (ATRP) initiating group is used to graft a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) layer from the copolymers, with 40% DOMA content providing a coherent PMMA film. To demonstrate functionalization on a polyolefin substrate, the copolymer is spin-coated on high-density polyethylene (HDPE) substrates. A POEGMA layer is grafted from the ATRP initiator sites on the terpolymer chain on the HDPE films to provide antifouling characteristics. Static contact angle values and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectra confirm the presence of POEGMA on the HDPE substrate. Finally, the anticipated antifouling functionality of grafted POEGMA is demonstrated by observing the inhibition of nonspecific adsorption of the fluorescein-modified bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein. The poly(oligoethylene glycol methacrylate) POEGMA layers grafted on 30% DOMA-containing copolymers on HDPE show optimal antifouling performance exhibiting a 95% reduction of BSA fluorescence compared to nonfunctionalized and surface-fouled polyethylene. These results demonstrate the successful utilization of catechol-based materials for functionalizing polyolefin surfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34023-34030
Number of pages8
JournalACS applied materials & interfaces
Issue number28
Early online date3 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2023


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