Formation, Removal, and Reformation of Surface Coatings on Various Metal Oxide Surfaces Inspired by Mussel Adhesives
Mussels survive by strongly attaching to a variety of different surfaces, primarily subsurface rocks composed of metal oxides, through the formation of coordinative interactions driven by protein-based catechol repeating units contained within their adhesive secretions. From a chemistry perspective, catechols are known to form strong and reversible complexes with metal ions or metal oxides, with the binding affinity being dependent on the nature of the metal ion. As a result, catechol binding with metal oxides is reversible and can be broken in the presence of a free metal ion with a higher stability constant. It is proposed to exploit this competitive exchange in the design of a new strategy for the formation, removal, and reformation of surface coatings and self-assembled monolayers (SAM) based on catechols as the adhesive unit. In this study, catechol-functionalized tri(ethylene oxide) (TEO) was synthesized as a removable and recoverable self-assembled monolayer (SAM) for use on oxides surfaces. Attachment and detachment of these catechol derivatives on a variety of surfaces was shown to be reversible and controllable by exploiting the high stability constant of catechol to soluble metal ions, such as Fe(III). This tunable assembly based on catechol binding to metal oxides represents a new concept for reformable coatings with applications in fields ranging from friction/wettability control to biomolecular sensing and antifouling.