Date of Award


Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Carl P. Tripp

Second Committee Member

Mark L. Wells

Third Committee Member

Mitchell Bruce


Layer by layer (LbL) self assembly is a simple multilayer thin (nanometer scale) film fabricating technique. The mechanism of film growth remains a topic of much controversy. For example, several models have been proposed to explain the origin of linear and exponential film growth that are attributed to differences in the dynamic processes that occur at the molecular level during film formation. The problem is that there are no methods that directly measure the dynamics of polymer formation during LbL film formation. In this thesis, I describe the essential elements of an ATR-IR spectroscopic method that was developed to enable measurement of the dynamics of the mass adsorbed and polyelectrolyte conformation during the formation of PEM's. In particular, I followed the sequential adsorption of Sodium polyacrylate (NaPA) and Poly (diallyldimethylammonium) chloride (PDADMAC) from deionized (DI) water and as a function of ionic strength to show that polymer diffusion occurs between layers when adsorbed from DI water. In contrast, a denser layer occurs with no polymer interdiffusion for deposition from 0.02M ionic strength solutions of NaPA and PDADMAC. While the mass deposited increased with ionic strength, linear multilayer growth in films were observed in all cases. This finding disputes a common viewpoint that interdiffusion of polymer layers is a key feature of exponential film growth.

The theme of polymer layer adsorption was used in the detection of Fe3+ in seawater. A new approach, developed previously in Tripp’s group, utilized "vertical amplification" in which a block copolymer assembled on membranes provided multiple anchoring points extending from the surface for attaching a siderophore, desferrioxamine B (DFB). The Fe3+ chelates with the siderophore producing a red color that can be quantified by visible spectroscopy. However, the rate of Fe3+ uptake was found to be dependent on flow rate. The origin of this flow rate dependence was identified by the work presented in this thesis. It was found that the amount and rate of Fe3+ uptake was dependent on the relative size of each block in the polymer and the degree of reaction of DFB with the adsorbed layer. In particular, higher amounts and higher rates were obtained when the density of DFB was lowered. This shows that the DFB was sterically hindered from forming a hexacoordinate complex with Fe3+ by the presence of neighboring DFB molecules. This is a key factor that needs to be considered in developing Fe3+ detection systems based on siderophores anchored to surfaces.