Drexel University researchers have developed a new method for making polymer nanobrushes. The technology can be used in various medical applications, including coating, biomedical, sensing, and catalysis processes.

Current methods for making polymer nanobrushes have more in common with transplanting grass one blade at a time, or scattering seeds and hoping they grow.

By first growing the material as polymer crystals, the Drexel engineers can precisely tune the shape, size, and density of the brush "bristles." When the two-dimensional sheets of nano-crystals are attached to a substrate and dissolved, the remaining polymers spring up to form the brush.

Additionally, the team has created polymer crystals with anchor points on both ends so they form a loop, which is a much sturdier bristle formation than a single-anchored polymer.

Polymer brush materials are especially useful in situations where pieces need to fit tightly together but must move without friction. Nanobrushes also keep important surfaces free of particles, chemicals, proteins, and other fouling agents.