Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological and Irrigation Engineering


David W Britt


Partitioning of poly(ethyleneglycol) (PEG) molecules in 2-D and 3-D systems is presented as a self-assembly approach for controlling non-specific adsorption of proteins at interfaces.

Lateral restructuring of multi-component Langmuir monolayers to accommodate adsorbing proteins was investigated as a model 2-D system. Ferritin adsorption to monolayers containing cationic, nonionic, and PEG bearing phospholipids induced protein sized binding pockets surrounded by PEG rich regions. The number, size, and distribution of protein imprint sites were controlled by the molar ratios, miscibility, and lateral mobility of the lipids.

The influence of PEG chain length on the ternary monolayer restructuring and protein distribution was also investigated using DSPE-PEGx (x= 7, 16, 22). Monolayer miscibility analysis demonstrated that longer PEG chains diminished the condensed phase formation for a fixed ratio of lipids. Thus, incorporation of longer PEG chains, intended to diminish protein adsorption outside of the imprint sites of cationic / non-ionic lipids, leads to dramatic changes in monolayer phase behavior and protein distribution in this 2-D system.

The assembly of PEG-amphiphiles at elastomer surfaces and subsequent protein adsorption was investigated as a model 3-D system. Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrates were modified with block copolymers comprised of PEG and PDMS segments by two methods: (1) the block copolymer was mixed with PDMS during polymerization; (2) the block copolymer diffused into solvent swollen PDMS monoliths. Hydrophilic surfaces resulted for both approaches that, for 600 D block copolymer, exhibited up to 85% reduction in fibrinogen adsorption as compared to native PDMS. Higher MW block copolymers (up to 3000 D) resulted in less hydrophilic surfaces and greater protein adsorption, presumably due to diffusion limitations of copolymer in the PDMS monolith. All modified PDMS surfaces were dynamic and restructured when cycled between air and water. PDMS transparency also decreased with increase in block copolymer concentration for both methods, limiting this modification protocol for applications requiring high polymer transparency.

The 2-D system presents a bottom-up approach, where adsorbing protein constructs the binding site, while the 3-D system presents a top down approach, where protein-binding elements may be introduced into the PEG-bearing polymer for fabrication of surfaces with controlled protein adsorption.