Adhesion and friction properties of fluoropolymer brushes: On the tribological inertness of fluorine

N.S. Bhairamadgi, S.P. Pujari, C.J.M. van Rijn, H. Zuilhof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of fluorination on the adhesion and friction properties of covalently bound poly(fluoroalkyl methacrylate) polymer brushes (thickness ~80 nm) were systematically investigated. Si(111) surfaces were functionalized with a covalently bound initiator via a thiol–yne click reaction to have a high surface coverage for initiator immobilization. Surface-initiated atom-transfer radical polymerization (SI-ATRP) was employed for the synthesis of four different fluoropolymer brushes (SPFx, where x = 0, 3, 7, or 17 F atoms per monomer), based on fluoroalkyl methacrylates. All polymer brushes were characterized with static contact angle measurements, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and infrared absorption reflection spectroscopy (IRRAS). The polymer brushes exhibited an excellent hydrophobicity, with static water contact angles of up to 121° depending on the number of fluorine atoms per side chain in fluoroalkyl methacrylate. The degree of swelling was precisely studied by using ellipsometry in different solvents such as acetone, hexadecane, hexafluoroisopropanol, nonafluorobutyl methyl ether, and Fluorinert FC-40. The polymer brushes have shown nanoscale swelling behavior in all solvents except hexadecane. The grafting density decreased upon increasing fluorine content in polymer brushes from 0.65 chains/nm2 (SPF0) to 0.10 chains/nm2 (SPF17) as observed in Fluorinert FC-40 as a good solvent. Adhesion and friction force measurements were conducted with silica colloidal probe atomic force microscopy (CP-AFM) under ambient, dry (argon), and lubricating fluid conditions. SPF17 showed the lowest coefficient of friction 0.005 under ambient condition (RH = 44 ± 2%) and a further decrease with 50% under fluidic conditions. These polymer brushes also showed adhesion forces as low as 6.9 nN under ambient conditions, which further went down to 0.003 nN under fluidic conditions (Fluorinert FC-40 and hexadecane) at 10 nN force.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12532-12540
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • poly(methyl methacrylate) brushes
  • self-lubricating composites
  • organic mono layers
  • polymer brushes
  • silicon(111) surfaces
  • assembled monolayers
  • coatings
  • density
  • films
  • wear

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