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Sticky surfaces turn slippery with the flip of a molecular light switch

ve to proteins that might stick to its surface, according to Belfort. Exposing the material to UV light is like flipping a molecular switch, causing sticky proteins to detach from the surface and wash away in the liquid, the researchers report.

Not only is the switching mechanism uncomplicated, but so is the patented procedure required to graft spiropyran molecules to poly(ether sulfone). "We used a relatively simple two-step process that could be easily incorporated into a commercial manufacturing process," Belfort says. "The relative ease of this grafting and switching process suggests many industrial opportunities."

In addition to bioseparations, Belfort envisions a number of potential applications for the materials, ranging from new membranes for treating polluted water to the targeted release of drugs in the body.

For example, in recent years researchers have developed "lab-on-a-chip" technology for automating laboratory processes on extremely small scales. Belfort notes that the new material could be employed as a surface valve that can be opened and closed by applying light, offering the ability to control liquid flow in a chip's ultra-tiny channels.

And in sensors designed to detect biological agents, the ability to control the polarity of the membrane could help reduce the attachment of unwanted proteins, providing more accurate readings, according to Belfort.


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Source:Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


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