Effect of surface roughness and softness on water capillary adhesion in apolar media

S. Banerjee, P. Mulder, J.M. Kleijn, M.A. Cohen Stuart

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20 Citations (Scopus)


The roughness and softness of interacting surfaces are both important parameters affecting the capillary condensation of water in apolar media, yet are poorly understood at present. We studied the water capillary adhesion between a cellulose surface and a silica colloidal probe in hexane by AFM force measurements. Nanomechanical measurements show that the Young’s modulus of the cellulose layer in water is significantly less (7 MPa) than in hexane (7 GPa). In addition, the cellulose surface in both water and hexane is rather rough (6–10 nm) and the silica probe has a comparable roughness. The adhesion force between cellulose and silica in water-saturated hexane shows a time-dependent increase up to a waiting time of 200 s and is much (2 orders of magnitude) lower than that expected for a capillary bridge spanning the whole silica probe surface. This suggests the formation of one or more smaller bridges between asperities on both surfaces, which is confirmed by a theoretical analysis. The overall growth rate of the condensate cannot be explained from diffusion mediated capillary condensation alone; thin film flow due to the presence of a wetting layer of water at both the surfaces seems to be the dominant contribution. The logarithmic time dependence of the force can also be explained from the model of the formation of multiple capillary bridges with a distribution of activation times. Finally, the force–distance curves upon retraction show oscillations. Capillary condensation between an atomically smooth mica surface and the silica particle show less significant oscillations and the adhesion force is independent of waiting time. The oscillations in the force–distance curves between cellulose and silica may stem from multiple bridge formation between the asperities present on both surfaces. The softness of the cellulose surface can bring in additional complexities during retraction of the silica particle, also resulting in oscillations in the force–distance curves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6481-6488
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry Part A: Molecules, Spectroscopy, Kinetics, Environment, & General Theory
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • atomic-force microscope
  • lamellae formation
  • phase-separation
  • mica surfaces
  • thin-film
  • condensation
  • kinetics
  • liquid
  • alkanes
  • pore


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