Toward Effective and Adsorption-Based Antifouling Zipper Brushes: Effect of pH, Salt, and Polymer Design

Anna M.C. Maan, Anton H. Hofman, Théophile Pelras, Ilan M. Ruhof, Marleen Kamperman*, Wiebe M. de Vos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


The undesired spontaneous deposition and accumulation of matter on surfaces, better known as fouling, is a problematic and often inevitable process plaguing a variety of industries. This detrimental process can be reduced or even prevented by coating surfaces with a dense layer of end-grafted polymer: a polymer brush. Producing such polymer brushes via adsorption presents a very attractive technique, as large surfaces can be coated in a quick and simple manner. Recently, we introduced a simple and scalable two-step adsorption strategy to fabricate block copolymer-based antifouling coatings on hydrophobic surfaces. This two-step approach involved the initial adsorption of hydrophobic-charged diblock copolymer micelles acting as a primer, followed by the complexation of oppositely charged-antifouling diblock copolymers to form the antifouling brush coating. Here, we significantly improve this adsorption-based zipper brush via systematic tuning of various parameters, including pH, salt concentration, and polymer design. This study reveals several key outcomes. First of all, increasing the hydrophobic/hydrophilic block ratio of the anchoring polymeric micelles (i.e., decreasing the hydrophilic corona) promotes adsorption to the surface, resulting in the most densely packed, uniform, and hydrophilic primer layers. Second, around a neutral pH and at a low salt concentration (1 mM), complexation of the weak polyelectrolyte (PE) blocks results in brushes with the best antifouling efficacy. Moreover, by tuning the ratio between these PE blocks, the brush density can be increased, which is also directly correlated to the antifouling performance. Finally, switching to different antifouling blocks can increase the internal density or strengthen the bound hydration layer of the brush, leading to an additional enhancement of the antifouling properties (>99% lysozyme, 87% bovine serum albumin).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7968-7981
Number of pages14
JournalACS Applied Polymer Materials
Issue number10
Early online date14 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2023


  • antifouling coating
  • diblock copolymers
  • hydrophobic surfaces
  • polymer brush
  • two-step adsorption
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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