Counterion-activated nanoactuator: Reversibly switchable killing/releasing bacteria on polycation brushes

Chun Jen Huang, Yen Sheng Chen, Yung Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


A strategy to release attached bacteria from surface-grafted bactericidal poly((trimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate chloride) (pTMAEMA) brushes has been proposed. The pTMAEMA brushes were fabricated via the surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization for contact killing of bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. The bacteria-conditioning surfaces, afterward, were washed with electrolyte solutions containing anions with different lipophilic characteristic, charge density, polarity and adsorbility to quaternary ammonium groups in polymers. Because of the special ion-pairing interactions, the interfacial properties, including wettability and χ-potential, can be manipulated in a controlled manner. Therefore, the counterion-assisted modulation of pTMAEMA brushes facilitates the bacterial release and regeneration of antimicrobial polymer films. The physicochemical properties of polymer brushes and their interactions with counterions were characterized using an ellipsometer, contact angle goniometer, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and an electrokinetic analyzer. The repetitive killing and releasing actions of pTMAEMA through unlocking and locking counterions were demonstrated, showing the robust effectiveness of the pTMAEMA-based nanoactuator in controlling the physical action by the chemical stimuli. The real-world implementation of the nanoactuator was demonstrated with a surgical scalpel by repelling killed bacteria and retaining reusability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2415-2423
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number4
StatePublished - 4 Feb 2015


  • antimicrobial biointerfaces
  • Hofmeister series
  • polyelectrolytes
  • polymer brushes
  • responsive polymers


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