Thermoresponsive Oligo(ethylene glycol)-Based Polymer Brushes on Polymer Monoliths for All-Aqueous Chromatography

Porous polymer monoliths onto which were grafted a thermoresponsive copolymer, poly­(2-(2-methoxyethoxy)­ethyl methacrylate (MEO<sub>2</sub>MA)-<i>co</i>-oligo­(ethylene glycol) methacrylate (OEGMA)), were synthesized by the two-step atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) method. The copolymer-grafted monoliths were characterized by elemental analysis, scanning electron microscopy, and mercury intrusion porosimetry. They were further used as the thermoresponsive stationary phase for all-aqueous high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The chromatograms of three steroids demonstrated that the chain length of the grafted copolymer, which was regulated by varying the grafting time, could affect the separation by providing different amounts of hydrophobic interaction sites with analytes. Additionally, the elution profiles of steroids on the stationary phase could also be tuned by the comonomer composition. The results showed that the porous polymer monoliths enabled separation of the test mixture in pure aqueous mobile phase under isocratic conditions. Furthermore, the proposed method provides a simple and promising tool in the design and construction of responsive surfaces for chromatography applications.