Peeling Back the Layers: Controlled Erosion and Triggered Disassembly of Multilayered Polyelectrolyte Thin Films


  • The author is grateful to the many students, collaborators, and other colleagues who have contributed to the ideas and to the work highlighted in this progress report. Work from the author's own laboratory was supported generously by the National Institutes of Health (R21 EB02746), the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, and the 3M Corporation, and made use of facilities available through the National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at UW (DMR-0520527). D. M. L. is a Research Fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


Methods for the layer-by-layer deposition of oppositely charged polymers on surfaces can be used to assemble thin multilayered films using a broad range of natural, synthetic, and biologically relevant materials. These methods also permit precise, nanometer-scale control over the compositions and internal structures of multicomponent assemblies. Provided that the individual components of these materials are selected or designed appropriately, these methods provide tantalizing new opportunities to design thin films and coatings that provide spatial, temporal, or active control over the release of one or several different agents from surfaces. The last two years have seen a significant increase in reports describing the development of new chemical, physical, and biomolecular approaches to the controlled erosion, triggered disassembly, or general deconstruction of multilayered polymer films. In this Progress Report, we highlight recent work from our laboratory and several other groups toward the design of ultrathin multilayered assemblies that i) permit broad, tunable, and sophisticated control over film erosion, and ii) provide new opportunities for the localized release of macromolecular therapeutics, such as DNA and proteins, from surfaces.