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Many polymers, such as PMMA, are very susceptible to swelling or dissolution by organic solvents. Growing covalently attached polymer brushes from these surfaces by atom-transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) is challenging because of the typical requirement of organic solvent for initiator immobilization. We report an unprecedented, aqueous-based route to graft poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), PNIPAAm, from poly(methyl methacrylate), PMMA, surfaces by ATRP, wherein the underlying PMMA is unaffected. Successful attachment of the ATRP initiator, N-hydroxysuccinimidyl-2-bromo-2- methylpropionate, on amine-bearing PMMA surfaces was confirmed by XPS. From this surface-immobilized initiator, thermoresponsive PNIPAAm brushes were grown by aqueous ATRP to yield optically transparent PNIPAAm-grafted PMMA surfaces. This procedure is valuable, as it can be applied for the aqueous-based covalent attachment of ATRP initiator on any amine-functionalized surface, with subsequent polymerization of a variety of monomers. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

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