Functionalization of surfaces with highly branched dendrimer molecules has gained attractiveness for various applications because the number of functional groups exceeds those of surfaces functionalized with self-assembled monolayers. So far, little is known about the physicochemical properties of dendrimer functionalized surfaces, especially if the flexibility of dendrimer structure remains after covalent immobilization. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to covalently immobilize polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimer molecules exhibiting terminal amine and carboxyl groups to silicon model surfaces and to explore their properties and structure at the solid-air and solid-liquid interface. Our results show that the surface free energy is higher for PAMAM coatings than for analogously terminated SAMs and also higher for carboxyl than amine functionalized coatings. Furthermore, several findings suggest that conformational freedom of the dendrimers was preserved after surface immobilization. Wet compared to dry PAMAMNH(2) surfaces show reduced hydrophilicity and increased contact angle hysteresis, whereas PAMAMCOOH surfaces become more hydrophilic and showed decreased hysteresis. Streaming current measurements showed an unexpected behavior for PAMAMCOOH surfaces in that they reveal a net positive surface charge over a wide pH range in spite of the carboxylated periphery. All of these results indicate a certain degree of masking, burrowing, back-folding and unfolding of functional groups upon environmental changes.
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