Pressure Anisotropy in Polymer Brushes and Its Effects on Wetting

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Abstract

Polymer brushes, coatings consisting of densely grafted macromolecules, experience an intrinsic lateral compressive pressure, originating from chain elasticity and excluded volume interactions. This lateral pressure complicates a proper definition of the interface and, thereby, the determination and interpretation of the interfacial tension and its relation to the wetting behavior of brushes. Here, we study the link among grafting-induced compressive lateral pressure in polymer brushes, interfacial tension, and brush wettability using coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations. We focus on grafting densities and polymer–liquid affinities such that the polymer and liquid do not tend to mix. For these systems, a central result is that the liquid contact angle is independent of the grafting density, which implies that the grafting-induced lateral compressive pressure in the brush does not influence its wettability. Although the definition of brush interfacial tensions is complicated by the grafting-induced pressure, the difference in the interfacial tension between wet and dry brushes is perfectly well-defined. We confirm explicitly from Young’s law that this difference offers an accurate description of the brush wettability. We then explore a method to isolate the grafting-induced contribution to the lateral pressure, assuming the interfacial tension is independent of grafting density. This scenario indeed allows disentanglement of interfacial and grafting effects for a broad range of parameters, except close to the mixing point. We separately discuss the latter case in light of autophobic dewetting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4401-4409
Number of pages9
JournalLangmuir
Volume40
Issue number8
Early online date15 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • UT-Hybrid-D

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