Why surfaces modified by flexible polymers often have a finite contact angle for good solvents

M. A. Cohen Stuart, W. M. De Vos, F. A M Leermakers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Polymers adsorbing from a dilute solution onto the solvent-vapor interface generate a nonzero surface pressure. When the same polymers are end-grafted onto a surface such that a so-called polymer brush is formed, one will find that the solvent wets this compound interface partially. The partial wetting and the finite surface pressure are intimately linked properties of the polymer-solvent-vapor combination. It is shown that the spreading parameter in the wetting problem is proportional to the surface pressure in the adsorption case. Complete wetting is only possible when this surface pressure is nonpositive. The wetting characteristics are hardly influenced by the grafting density and chain length characterizing the brush. We argue that the grafted polymer chains can bridge to the solvent-vapor interface, thereby preventing the wetting film to become macroscopically thick. We present experimental data underpinning our self-consistent field analysis. Indeed, finite contact angles should be expected in various systems in which bridging attraction contributes to the disjoining pressure in wetting films.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1722-1728
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


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