Nanoscale Brushes: How to Build a Smart Surface Coating

H Merlitz and GL He and CX Wu and JU Sommer, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 102, 115702 (2009).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.102.115702

Via computer simulations, we demonstrate how a densely grafted layer of polymers, a brush, could be turned into an efficient switch through chemical modification of some of its end monomers. In this way, a surface coating with reversibly switchable properties can be constructed. We analyze the fundamental physical principle behind its function, a recently discovered surface instability, and demonstrate that the combination of a high grafting density, an inflated end-group size, and a high degree of monodispersity is a condition for an optimal functionality of the switch.

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