Efficient and tunable three-dimensional functionalization of fully zwitterionic antifouling surface coatings

Stefanie C. Lange, Esther Van Andel, Maarten M.J. Smulders, Han Zuilhof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


To enhance the sensitivity and selectivity of surface-based (bio)sensors, it is of crucial importance to diminish background signals that arise from the nonspecific binding of biomolecules, so-called biofouling. Zwitterionic polymer brushes have been shown to be excellent antifouling materials. However, for sensing purposes, antifouling does not suffice but needs to be combined with the possibility to efficiently modify the brush with recognition units. So far this has been achieved only at the expense of either antifouling properties or binding capacity. Herein we present a conceptually new approach by integrating both characteristics into a single tailor-made monomer: a novel sulfobetaine-based zwitterionic monomer equipped with a clickable azide moiety. Copolymerization of this monomer with a well-established standard sulfobetaine monomer results in highly antifouling surface coatings with a large yet tunable number of clickable groups present throughout the entire brush. Subsequent functionalization of the azido brushes via widely used strain-promoted alkyne azide click reactions yields fully zwitterionic 3D-functionalized coatings with a recognition unit of choice that can be tailored for any specific application. Here we show a proof of principle with biotin-functionalized brushes on Si3N4 that combine excellent antifouling properties with specific avidin binding from a protein mixture. The signal-to-noise ratio is significantly improved over that of traditional chain-end modification of sulfobetaine polymer brushes, even if the azide content is lowered to 1%. This therefore offers a viable approach to the development of biosensors with greatly enhanced performance on any surface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10199-10205
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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