Poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide) (PNIPAM) is a stimulus-responsive polymer that can switch in water from an expanded state below the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of 32 °C to a globular state above the LCST. It was recently shown that, as a consequence of this conformational transition, the interfacial and (tribo-)mechanical properties of polymeric systems composed of PNIPAM can be switched between two states. Here we show that the tribo-mechanical properties of a particular type of PNIPAM system, which is the PNIPAM brush, do not just change between two states, but instead evolve continuously and non-monotonically upon increasing/decreasing temperature. To do so, we present atomic force microscopy experiments in which we measure the adhesion hysteresis and the friction upon bringing a gold colloid in relative motion with PNIPAM brushes at temperatures around the LCST. Both the friction and the adhesion hysteresis display a pronounced maximum exactly at the LCST. The force vs. distance data captured at these temperatures show a long-ranged adhesive interaction upon moving the colloid away from the original point of contact, which indicates that during this retraction the partly collapsed polymers in the brush become strongly stretched.
- 2023 OA procedure