Covalent layer-by-layer films: chemistry, design, and multidisciplinary applications
Covalent layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly is a powerful method used to construct functional ultrathin films that enables nanoscopic structural precision, componential diversity, and flexible design. Compared with conventional LbL films built using multiple noncovalent interactions, LbL films prepared using covalent crosslinking offer the following distinctive characteristics: (i) enhanced film endurance or rigidity; (ii) improved componential diversity when uncharged species or small molecules are stably built into the films by forming covalent bonds; and (iii) increased structural diversity when covalent crosslinking is employed in componential, spacial, or temporal (labile bonds) selective manners. In this review, we document the chemical methods used to build covalent LbL films as well as the film properties and applications achievable using various film design strategies. We expect to translate the achievement in the discipline of chemistry (film-building methods) into readily available techniques for materials engineers and thus provide diverse functional material design protocols to address the energy, biomedical, and environmental challenges faced by the entire scientific community.