Thin-layer studies on surface functionalization of polyetherimide: Hydrolysis versus amidation


Among the high-performance and engineering polymers, polyimides and the closely related polyetherimide (PEI) stand out by their capability to react with nucleophiles under relatively mild conditions. By targeting the phthalimide groups in the chain backbone, post-functionalization offers a pathway to adjust surface properties such as hydrophilicity, solvent resistance, and porosity. Here, we use ultrathin PEI films on a Langmuir trough as a model system to investigate the surface functionalization with ethylene diamine and tetrakis(4-aminophenyl)porphyrin as multivalent nucleophiles. By means of AFM, Raman spectroscopy, and interfacial rheology, we show that hydrolysis enhances the chemical and mechanical stability of ultrathin films and allows for the formation of EDC/NHS-activated esters. Direct amidation of PEI was achieved in the presence of a Lewis acid catalyst, resulting in free amine groups rather than cross-linking. When comparing amidation with hydrolysis, we find a greater influence of the latter on material properties.
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