Fabricating scratch resistant non-fouling surfaces

Significance 

The anti-fouling properties of several materials have attracted significant attention in industry owing to its wide range of application in areas of food processing, water purification and medical devices. However, owing to the increasingly strict rules conserving environmental protection, non-releasing surfaces have consequently been considered. To overcome this, several approaches for developing non-fouling surfaces have been designed. Among these methodologies, polymer brushes comprising poly (ethylene glycol) (PEG) have been widely used due to its low immunogenicity and non-toxic nature.

Several factors can affect the anti-fouling and anti-adhesion properties of the polymer’s brushes including grafting density, chain length, macromolecular chain conformations, and the hydrogen bond strength. Interestingly with the new possibility of grafting polymer brushes on gold, glass and silicon oxide flat surfaces, this has resulted in ultrathin two-dimensional surfaces with no degree of scratch resistance thus making them unsuitable for various technological applications. It is widely accepted efficient techniques for developing polymer nanocomposites and inorganic nanomaterials with excellent non-fouling and scratch resistance properties is highly desirable.

To this note, University of Applied Sciences scientists: Dr. Ekram Wassel, Dr. Martha Es-Souni, Ayoub Laghrissi (Ph.D. student), Dr. Artjonm Roth, Matthias Dietze, and led by Professor Mohammed Es-Souni proposed a material design criterion for developing polymer films with non-fouling and scratch resistant properties. Fundamentally, the design procedure involved directly grafting of the poly (ethylene glycol) brushes on the pore walls of the supported porous oxide structures. Their work is currently published in the journal, Materials and Design.

Briefly, the research team assessed the potential of using the supported porous oxide structures to induce the missing scratch resistance properties on the polymer films. Next, the design entailed two different supported porous oxides: supported anodized aluminum oxide on the glass surface and supported titanium oxide nanotubes on the titanium sheets, depending on the intended application e.g. displays and medical applications respectively. Additionally, the polymerization of the poly (oligo-ethylene glycol)- methyl ether methacrylate brushes was initiated by the atom transfer radical polymerization method. Eventually, they examined the advantages of using the substrates in terms of their non-fouling, scratch resistance and mechanical properties.

The authors generated mechanically stable anti-fouling surfaces with desired scratch resistance properties. For both of the two-pore walls, grafting of the brushes in three-dimensional non-fouling surfaces suitable for numerous applications was achieved. This was attributed to the high grafting density due to the large surface area.

In summary, Professor Mohammed Es-Souni and his research team successfully designed a bottom-up process for grafting scratch resistance non-fouling surfaces on porous oxide structural walls. Considering the industrial establishment of anodization of both titanium and aluminum, the process can as well be extended to large substrates. Altogether, their work paves way for the process optimization in large-scale fabrication of these materials for efficient industrial applications.

Reference

Wassel, E., Es-Souni, M., Laghrissi, A., Roth, A., Dietze, M., & Es-Souni, M. (2019). Scratch resistant non-fouling surfaces via grafting non-fouling polymers on the pore walls of supported porous oxide structures. Materials & Design, 163, 107542.

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