Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) represent an intriguing class of synthetic materials that can selectively recognize and bind chemical or biological molecules in a variety of value-added applications in sensors, catalysis, drug delivery, antibodies, and receptors. In this context, many advanced methods of implementing functional MIP materials have been actively studied. Herein, we report a robust strategy to produce highly ordered arrays of surface-imprinted polymer patterns with unprecedented regularity for MIP-based sensor platform, which involves the controlled evaporative self-assembly process of MIP precursor solution in a confined geometry consisting of a spherical lens on a flat Si substrate (i.e., sphere-on-flat geometry) to synergistically utilize the "coffee-ring"effect and repetitive stick-slip motions of the three-phase contact line simply by solvent evaporation. Highly ordered arrays of the ring-patterned MIP films are then polymerized under UV irradiation to achieve semi-interpenetrating polymer networks. The extraction of templated target molecules from the surface-imprinted ring-patterned MIP films leaves behind copious cavities for the recognizable specific "memory sites"to efficiently detect small molecules. As a result, the elaborated surface structuring effect, sensitivity, and specific selectivity of the coffee-ring-based MIP sensors are scrutinized by capitalizing on an endocrine-disrupting chemical, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), as an example. Clearly, the evaporative self-assembly of nonvolatile solutes in a confined geometry renders the creation of familiar yet ordered coffee-ring-like patterns for a wide range of applications, including sensors, scaffolds for cell motility, templates, substrates for neuron guidance, etc., thereby dispensing with the need of multistep lithography techniques and external fields.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and ICT, Republic of Korea (Grant No. NRF-2020R1F1A1077033). This work was also supported by the “Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy” (Grant No. N0002310) and the Korea Medical Device Development Fund grant funded by the Korea government (the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Ministry of Health & Welfare, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety) (NTIS Number: 9991006781).