Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PIPAAm) of controlled molecular weight was densely grafted onto glass capillary lumenal surfaces using surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). Temperature-dependent changes of these thermoresponsive brush surfaces with hydrophobic steroids were investigated by exploiting thermoresponsive aqueous wettability changes of the polymer-modified surfaces in microfluidic systems. IPAAm was polymerized on ATRP initiator-immobilized glass surfaces using CuCl/CuCl 2/tris(dimethylaminoethyl)amine (Me6TREN) as an ATRP catalyst in water at 25°C. PIPAAm graft layer thickness and its homogeneity on glass surfaces are controlled by changing ATRP reaction time. Aqueous wettability changes of PIPAAm-grafted surfaces responses drastically changed to both grafted polymer layer thickness and temperature, especially at lower temperatures. Temperature-responsive surface properties of these PIPAAm brushes within capillary inner wall surfaces were then investigated using capillary chromatography. Effective interaction of hydrophobic steroids with dehydrated, hydrophobized PIPAAm-grafted capillary surfaces was observed above 30°C without any column packing materials. Steroid elution behavior from PIPAAm-grafted capillaries contrasted sharply with that from PIPAAm hydrogel-grafted porous monolithic silica capillaries prepared by electron beam (EB) irradiation wherein significant peak broadening was observed at high-temperature regardless of sample hydrophobicity factors (log P values), indicating multistep separation modes in coated monolithic silica capillaries. In conclusion, thermoresponsive polymer-grafted capillary inner wall surfaces prepared by ATRP exhibit useful temperature-dependent surface property alterations effective to regulate interactions with biomolecules without requirements for separation bed packing materials within the capillary lumen.
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