Zipper polymer brushes via reversible interfacial coacervation of weak polyelectrolytes

  • Silvia Ruscigno

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Hydrophobic surfaces are extensively employed in industrial and personal care products, for instance on domestic appliances and surfaces, textiles, and clothing. These are particularly susceptible to soiling and fouling mainly due to a very low work of adhesion between organic matter and hydrophobic materials, which can lead to biofilm formation and ultimately failures of material functions and performance. To tackle this problem, several anti-biofouling strategies have been developed, principally based on active/toxic compounds release, due to their high efficacy. Nevertheless, due to harsh chemical release, their usage generates undesirable environmental effects and poor consumer experiences. Thus, anti-fouling “green” technologies without active chemicals emission are drawing a special attention in both medical and industrial fields. To this end, among non-fouling technologies, hydrophilic polymer brushes represent an effective candidate. Moreover, the possibility of polymer brushes to be formed by non-covalent methods (e.g. adsorption) and to act in response to external stimuli is of great significance, giving the possibility to design systems with renewable/replenishable characteristics. To this goal, polyethylene glycol - poly(L)lysine (PEG-PLL)/polyacrylic acid – polystyrene (PAA-PS) linear zipper brushes and poly(L)lysine - polyethylene glycol - poly(L)lysine (PLL-PEGPLL)/PAA-PS novel telechelic zipper system have been designed from interfacial coacervation of polyelectrolytes. Underpinning their interfacial performance, experiments focusing on fundamental understanding of the zipper brushes formation/destabilisation kinetics, their structure, and properties upon variation of stimuli (pH and ionic strength) and polymer characteristics (molecular weight and topology/architecture) at the solid-water interface were carried out. Our novel results have paved the way towards the potential of the proposed zipper polyelectrolyte technology based on weak polyelectrolyte coacervation to be applied as effective renewable anti-fouling, anti-viral, and anti-microbial coatings on hydrophobic surfaces in consumer goods area.
Date of Award21 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SponsorsEuropean Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN
SupervisorWuge H Briscoe (Supervisor)

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