Surface Passivation Method for the Super-repellence of Aqueous Macromolecular Condensates

Andrea Testa, Hendrik T. Spanke, Etienne Jambon-Puillet, Mohammad Yasir, Yanxia Feng, Andreas M. Küffner, Paolo Arosio, Eric R. Dufresne, Robert W. Style, Aleksander A. Rebane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Solutions of macromolecules can undergo liquid-liquid phase separation to form droplets with ultralow surface tension. Droplets with such low surface tension wet and spread over common surfaces such as test tubes and microscope slides, complicating in vitro experiments. The development of a universal super-repellent surface for macromolecular droplets has remained elusive because their ultralow surface tension requires low surface energies. Furthermore, the nonwetting of droplets containing proteins poses additional challenges because the surface must remain inert to a wide range of chemistries presented by the various amino acid side chains at the droplet surface. Here, we present a method to coat microscope slides with a thin transparent hydrogel that exhibits complete dewetting (contact angles θ ≈ 180°) and minimal pinning of phase-separated droplets in aqueous solution. The hydrogel is based on a swollen matrix of chemically cross-linked polyethylene glycol diacrylate of molecular weight 12 kDa (PEGDA), and can be prepared with basic chemistry laboratory equipment. The PEGDA hydrogel is a powerful tool for in vitro studies of weak interactions, dynamics, and the internal organization of phase-separated droplets in aqueous solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14626-14637
Number of pages12
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 17 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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