The synthesis and application of a novel reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) agent carrying a photocaged thioaldehyde moiety is described (λmax = 355 nm). RAFT polymerization of styrene, dimethylacrylamide and a glycomonomer is evidenced (3600 g mol−1 ≤ Mn ≤ 15 000 g mol−1; 1.07 ≤ Đ ≤ 1.20) with excellent end-group fidelity. The photogenerated thioaldehyde on the chain ends can undergo hetero Diels–Alder reactions with dienes as well as reactions with nucleophiles. The terminal photoreactive polymers are photografted to porous diene-reactive polymeric microspheres. The grafted particles are in-depth characterized via scanning electron microscopy, elemental analysis, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and high resolution FT-IR microscopy, leading to a qualitative as well as quantitative image of the core–shell objects. Grafting densities up to 0.10 molecules nm−2 are reached. The versatility of the thioaldehyde ligation is evidenced by spatially resolved grafting of polystyrene onto nucleophilic groups present in poly (dopamine) (PDA)-coated glass slides and silicon wafers via two-photon direct laser writing (DLW) imaged by ToF-SIMS. The combination of thioaldehyde ligation, RAFT polymerization, and DLW allows for the spatially resolved grafting of a vast range of polymers onto various substrates in any desired pattern with sub-micrometer resolution.
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