Atomic force microscopy study of the interaction between adsorbed poly(ethylene oxide) layers: Effects of surface modification and approach velocity

Scott C. McLean, Hadi Lioe, Laurence Meagher, Vincent S.J. Craig, Michelle L. Gee

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The interaction forces between layers of the triblock copolymer Pluronic F108 adsorbed onto hydrophobic radio frequency glow discharge (RFGD) thin film surfaces and hydrophilic silica, in polymer-free 0.15 M NaCl solution, have been measured using the atomic force microscope (ATM) colloid probe technique. Compression of Pluronic F108 layers adsorbed on the hydrophobic RFGD surfaces results in a purely repulsive force due to the steric overlap of the layers, the form of which suggests that the PEO chains adopt a brush conformation. Subsequent fitting of these data to the polymer brush models of Alexander-de Gennes and Milner, Witten, and Cates confirms that the adsorbed Pluronic F108 adsorbs onto hydrophobic surfaces as a polymer brush with a parabolic segment density profile. In comparison, the interaction between Pluronic F108 layers adsorbed on silica exhibits a long ranged shallow attractive force and a weaker steric repulsion. The attractive component is reasonably well described by van der Waals forces, but polymer bridging cannot be ruled out. The weaker steric component of the force suggests that the polymer is less densely packed on the surface and is less extended into solution, existing as polymeric isolated mushrooms. When the surfaces are driven together at high piezo ramp velocities, an additional repulsive force is measured, attributable to hydrodynamic drainage forces between the surfaces. In comparing theoretical predictions of the hydrodynamic force to the experimentally obtained data, agreement could only be obtained if the flow profile of the aqueous solution penetrated significantly into the polymer brush. This finding is in line with the theoretical predictions of Milner and provides further evidence that the segment density profile of the adsorbed polymer brush is parabolic. A velocity dependent additional stepped repulsive force, reminiscent of a solvation oscillatory force, is also observed when the adsorbed layers are compressed under high loads. This additional force is presumably a result of hindered drainage of water due to the presence of a high volume fraction of polymer chains between the surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2199-2208
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes

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