XPS Depth-Profiling Studies of Chlorophyll Binding to Poly(cysteine methacrylate) Scaffolds in Pigment-Polymer Antenna Complexes using a Gas Cluster Ion Source

12 April 2024, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) depth-profiling with an argon gas cluster ion source (GCIS) was used to characterize the spatial distribution of chlorophyll a (Chl) within a poly(cysteine methacrylate) (PCysMA) brush grown by surface-initiated atom-transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) from a planar surface. The organization of Chl is controlled by adjusting the brush grafting density and polymerization time. For dense brushes, the C, N, S elemental composition remains constant throughout the 36 nm brush layer until the underlying gold substrate is approached. However, for either reduced density brushes (mean thickness 20 nm) or mushrooms grown with reduced grafting densities (mean thickness 6-9 nm), elemental intensities decrease continuously throughout the brush layer, because photoelectrons are less strongly attenuated for such systems. For all brushes, the fraction of positively charged nitrogen atoms (N+/N0) decreases with increasing depth. Chl binding causes a marked reduction in N+/N0 within the brushes and produces a new feature at 398.1 eV in the N1s core-line spectrum assigned to tetrapyrrole ring nitrogen atoms coordinated to Zn2+. For all grafting densities, the N/S atomic ratio remains approximately constant as a function of brush depth, which indicates a uniform distribution of Chl throughout the brush layer. However, a larger fraction of repeat units bound to Chl is observed at lower grafting densities, reflecting a progressive reduction in steric congestion that enables more uniform distribution of the bulky Chl units throughout the brush layer. In summary, XPS depth-profiling using a GCIS is a powerful tool for characterization of these complex materials.


Polymer brush
Surface analysis
Gas cluster ion source
Biomimetic materials
Artificial light harvesting systems
Dye functionalised polymer
Functionalised polymer brushes
Plexcitonic antenna complexes

Supplementary materials

Csanyi et al Supporting Information
Full details of the experimental methods and materials, together with supplementary measurement data.


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