Low-Fouling Thin Hydrogel Coatings Made of Photo-Cross-Linked Polyzwitterions

Koc, J. and Schönemann, E. and Amuthalingam, A. and Clarke, J. and Finlay, J.A. and Clare, A.S. and Laschewsky, A. and Rosenhahn, A.

Volume: 35 Pages: 1552-1562
DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.8b02799
Published: 2019

Although zwitterionic chemistries are among the most promising materials for producing nonfouling surfaces, their structural diversity has been low until now. Here, we compare the in vitro fouling behavior of a set of four systematically varied sulfa-/sulfobetaine-containing zwitterionic hydrogel coatings against a series of proteins and nonmotile as well as motile marine organisms as model foulers. The coatings are prepared by simultaneous photoinduced cross-linking and surface anchoring to elucidate the effect of the molecular structure of the zwitterionic moieties on their antifouling activity. Analogously prepared coatings of poly(butyl methacrylate) and poly(oligoethylene glycol methacrylate) serve as references. Photoreactive polymers are synthesized by the statistical copolymerization of sulfobetaine or sulfabetaine methacrylates and methacrylamides with a benzophenone derivative of 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate and are applied as a thin film coating. While keeping the density of the zwitterionic and cross-linker groups constant, the molecular structure of the zwitterionic side chains is varied systematically, as is the arrangement of the ion pairs in the side chain by changing the classical linear geometry to a novel Y-shaped geometry. All of the polyzwitterions strongly reduce fouling compared to poly(butyl methacrylate). Overall, the sulfabetaine polyzwitterion coatings studied matches the high antifouling effectiveness of oligo(ethylene glycol)-based ones used as a control. Nevertheless, performances varied individually for a given pair of polymer and fouler. The case of the polysulfobetaines exemplifies that minor chemical changes in the polymer structure affect the antifouling performance markedly. Accordingly, the antifouling performance of such polymers cannot be correlated simply to the type of zwitterion used (which could be generally ranked as better performing or poorer performing) but is a result of the polymer's precise chemical structure. Our findings underline the need to enlarge the existing structural diversity of polyzwitterions for antifouling purposes to optimize the potential of their chemical structure. © 2018 American Chemical Society.

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