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Optimisation of Surface-Initiated Photoiniferter-Mediated Polymerisation under Confinement, and the Formation of Block Copolymers in Mesoporous Films

Tom, Jessica; Brilmayer, Robert; Schmidt, Johannes; Andrieu-Brunsen, Annette

Nature as the ultimate inspiration can direct, gate, and selectively transport species across channels to fulfil a specific targeted function. Harnessing such precision over local structure and functionality at the nanoscale is expected to lead to indispensable developments in synthetic channels for application in catalysis, filtration and sensing, and in drug delivery. By combining mesoporous materials with localised charge-switchable poly(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate) (PDMAEMA) brushes, precisely controlling pore filling and exploring the possibility of incorporating two different responsive polymers, we hope to approach the precision control of natural systems in the absence of an external force. Here, we report a simple one-step approach to prepare a mesoporous silica thin film with ~8 nm pores functionalised with a photoiniferter by combining sol–gel chemistry and evaporation-induced self-assembly (EISA). We show that surface-initiated photoiniferter-mediated polymerisation (SI-PIMP) allows the incorporation of a high polymer content up to geometrical pore blocking by the simple application of UV light in the presence of a monomer and solvent, proceeding in a controlled manner in pore sizes below 10 nm, with the potential to tune the material properties through the formation of surface-grafted block copolymers.
Published in: Polymers, 10.3390/polym9100539, MDPI