Microscopy research and technique

Template-directed patterning of polymers and biomaterials.

PMID 17479983


A novel method of patterning surfaces with synthetic or biological polymers is demonstrated. It consists of using microcontact printing to pattern a gold surface with an adsorbate that imparts hydrophilicity; the remainder of the surface is covered with one that imparts hydrophobicity. 16-Mercaptohexadecanoic acid (MHDA) and 1H,1H,2H,2H-perfluorodecanethiol, respectively, have been used as the hydrophilic and hydrophobic adsorbates. This functionalized gold surface then serves as a template for patterning hydrophilic polymers and biomaterials, which are either spin-coated or drop-cast onto the surface. Using this methodology, it is shown by atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and fluorescence microscopy that micron-scale patterns of a poly(ethylene)-block-poly(ethylene oxide) copolymer, poly-L-tryptophan, and bovine collagen can be fabricated, with these mimicking the MHDA patterns. For the block copolymer, it is found by atomic force microscopy that the heights of the polymer patterns decrease as their widths decrease. This is believed to be due to the inherent instability of tall, narrow polymer structures and the tendency of the polymer to minimize its exposed surface area. For poly-L-tryptophan, two different molecular weights of this polyamino acid have been studied, and different morphologies within the patterned regions are observed. While oligomeric poly-L-tryptophan (1,000-5,000 g/mol) gives smooth MHDA-covered patterns, the higher molecular weight (15,000-50,000 g/mol) yields fibrous ones.