A versatile approach for the preparation of photoswitchable molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) is proposed where the selective recognition and the photoresponsive function are assumed by two different monomers. As a proof of concept, MIP microspheres were synthesized by precipitation polymerization for recognizing terbutylazine, a triazine-type herbicide. Formation of the selective binding sites was based upon H-bonding interactions between the template and the functional monomer methacrylic acid, whereas a polymerizable spiropyran unit was incorporated into the polymer matrix to provide light-controllable characteristics. A trifunctional monomer, trimethylolpropane trimethacrylate, was used as a cross-linker. The imprinted particles exhibited considerable morphological differences compared to their nonimprinted counterparts as observed by scanning electron microscopy. The imprinting effect was confirmed by equilibrium rebinding studies. The photoresponsiveness of the polymer particles was visualized by fluorescence microscopy and further characterized by spectroscopy. The template binding behavior could be regulated by alternating UV and visible light illumination when analyte release and uptake was observed, respectively. Binding isotherms fitted by the Freundlich model revealed the photomodulation of the number of binding sites and their average affinity. This facile synthetic approach may give an attractive starting point to endow currently existing highly selective MIPs with photoswitchable properties, thereby extending the scope of spiropyran-based photoresponsive smart materials.
- molecularly imprinted polymer
- precipitation polymerization
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)