Surface biofouling is a nuisance and a hazard in industries such as marine transport and health care. Marine biofouling leads to costly maintenance and slowing of transport. Whereas, biofouling in medical environments is a leading cause of secondary infection. Anti-fouling and anti-microbial polymer coatings have been used to reduce the impact of each of these issues. However, traditional coatings fall short in terms of durability and longevity. Recently, there has been an increasing focus on the use of polymer brushes as anti-fouling coatings due to their well-defined structure and functionality and the ability to covalently attach brushes to a range of different surfaces. Despite these benefits, traditional polymer brushes still suffer from degradation over time due to the structure of the vinyl monomers typically used for their synthesis. The recent discovery of chain growth condensation polymerization allows for the synthesis of durable rigid rod aromatic polyamide brushes with the potential to combat the stability problems of traditional random coil brush coatings. It has been shown by a previous group member that the addition of a poly(ethylene glycol)(PEG) side chain to rigid rod aromatic polyamide brushes reduces surface fouling and does so in a superior manner to existing PEG coatings. However, the fundamental reason behind the superior performance of these systems have not been explored, nor have their structure-property relationships. By altering the length and location of the PEG functional groups on aromatic polyamide brushes, we hope to better understand and optimize the factors that influence their performance as an anti-fouling coating. Furthermore, zwitterion-containing polymers have also been shown to have excellent anti-fouling and anti-microbial properties in random coil brush systems. In future work, we plan to further expand the current capabilities of our aromatic polyamide brush systems by introducing zwitterion functionality to polymers.
Nicole received her BS in chemistry from Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. In the Spring of 2020, she joined the Boyes lab at GWU. Her current research focuses on functionalization of aromatic polyamides for anti-fouling and anti-microbial surfaces.