We propose the design of a novel mixed polymer brush system that could act as a selective sensor with a distinct on-off switch. In the proposed system, a (single) nanoparticle (such as an antibody) is end-attached to a responsive chain, which is surrounded by a brush of nonresponsive chains. The collapse of the responsive chain leads to a protected state, where the nanoparticle is hidden in the polymer brush, while swelling of the responsive chain brings the nanoparticle outside of the brush into an exposed and active state. We investigate this system by numerical self-consistent field theory and predict a first-order like transition between the active state and the protective state at a critical decrease in solvent quality for the responsive chain. We show that by careful design of the brush parameters such as grafting density and chain length, for a given particle size, it is possible to fine-tune the desired switching mechanism.
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