Phospholipid-like copolymers based on 2-(methacryloyloxyethyl) phosphorylcholine were synthesised using monomer-starved free radical polymerisation methods and incorporating cationic charge in the form of the choline methacrylate monomer in amounts varying from 0 to 30wt%, together with a 5wt% silyl cross-linking agent in order to render them water-insoluble once thermally cured. Characterisation using a variety of techniques including nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, high-pressure liquid chromatography and gel permeation chromatography showed the cationic monomer did not interfere with the polymerisation and that the desired amount of charge had been incorporated. Gravimetric and differential scanning calorimetry methods were used to evaluate the water contents of polymer membranes cured at 70°C, which was seen to increase with increasing cation content, producing materials with water contents ranging from 50% to 98%. Surface plasmon resonance indicated that the coatings swelled rapidly in water, the rate and extent of swelling increasing with increasing cation level. Dynamic contact angle showed that coatings of all the polymers possessed a hydrophobic surface when dry in air, characteristic of the alkyl chains expressed at the surface (>100deg; advancing angle). Rearrangement of the hydrophilic groups to the surface occurred once wet, to produce highly wettable surfaces with a decrease in advancing angle with increasing cation content. Atomic force microscopy showed all polymer films to be smooth with no features in topographical or phase imaging. Mechanical properties of the dry films were also unaffected by the increase in cation content. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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