Surface modification of a polymer substrate with a mercapto functionality is crucial in many applications such as flexible circuitry and point-of-care biosensors. We present here a novel bifunctional molecular adhesive, 3-mercaptopropylsilatrane (MPS), as an interface between polymer and metal surfaces. Under ambient conditions, surface modification of polymer surfaces with a mercapto functionality can be achieved with low concentration (0.46 mM) of MPS in aqueous solvent (50% ethanol) in a short time (<30 min). Three popular polymers for optical sensors, polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate, and poly(methyl methacrylate), were employed as substrates, and MPS films formed on these substrates were examined and compared with that on a glass substrate. The films were characterized by UV-vis spectroscopy, water contact angle, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy. MPS was also used as a bifunctional linker for the construction of a gold nanoparticle (AuNP) sub-monolayer on these polymer surfaces. Under optimized preparation conditions, the absorbance and full width at half-maximum of the plasmon band are comparable to those of a AuNP-modified glass substrate. Hence, MPS may have a potential to be a key component in polymer substrate-based localized surface plasmon resonance sensors. A self-catalytic surface reaction mechanism is also proposed to account for the results. As compared to a glass surface with a high number of silanol groups, the successful formation of an MPS film on polymer surfaces with relatively few reactive sites is probably due to the lateral polymerization of MPS starting from a condensed MPS molecule on a reactive site of a polymer surface.
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