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Dense Passivating Poly(ethylene glycol) Films on Indium Tin Oxide Substrates

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journal contribution
posted on 25.09.2007, 00:00 by Robert Schlapak, David Armitage, Nadia Saucedo-Zeni, Michael Hohage, Stefan Howorka
We describe the formation and characterization of surface-passivating poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) films on indium tin oxide (ITO) glass substrates. PEG chains with a molecular weight of 2000 and 5000 D were covalently attached to the substrates in a systematic approach using different coupling schemes. The coupling strategies included the direct grafting with PEG-silane, PEG-methacrylate, and PEG-bis(amine), as well as the two-step functionalization with aldehyde-bearing silane films and subsequent coupling with PEG-bis(amine). Elemental analysis by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) confirmed the successful surface modification, and XPS and ellipsometry provided values for film thicknesses. XPS and ellipsometry thickness values were almost identical for PEG-silane films but differed by up to 400% for the other PEG layers, suggesting a homogeneous layer for PEG-silane but an inhomogeneous distribution for other PEG coatings on the molecularly rough ITO substrates. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) and water contact angle goniometry confirmed the different degrees of surface homogeneity of the polymer films, with PEG-silane reducing the AFM rms surface roughness by 50% and the water contact angle hysteresis by 75% compared to uncoated ITO. The ability of the PEG layers to passivate the substrate against the nonspecific adsorption of biopolymers was tested using fluorescence-labeled immunoglobulin G and DNA oligonucleotides in combination with fluorescence microscopy. The results indicate a positive relationship between film density and homogeneity on one hand and the ability to passivate against biopolymer adhesion on the other hand. The most homogeneous layers prepared with PEG-silane reduced the nonspecific adsorption of fluorescence-labeled DNA by a factor of 300 compared to uncoated ITO. In addition, the study finds that the ratio of film thicknesses derived by ellipsometry and XPS is a useful parameter to quantify the structural integrity of PEG layers on molecularly rough ITO surfaces. The findings may be applied to characterize PEG or other polymeric films on similarly coarse substrates.