Wettability of tri-block copolymer coated hydrophobic surfaces. Predictions and measurements.

C.G.P.H. Schroën, M.A. Cohen Stuart, A. van der Padt, K. van 't Riet

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Hydrophobic surfaces with adsorbed tri-block copolymers are wetted by oil in spite of the hydrophilic buoy groups of the block copolymer that are present near the surface. The effect of the buoy group length of the adsorbed molecules on the wettability of hydrophobic surfaces is studied by contact angle measurements and by computer modelling. The computer model predicts an increase in interfacial free energy with increasing buoy group length for equilibrium adsorption of block copolymer from water. Molecules with large buoy groups occupy more lateral space; therefore the "bare" surface gets more exposed and the anchor groups contribute less to the interfacial free energy which thus increases with the buoy group length. The calculations showed that the variation of the interaction parameter between solvent and buoy group hardly influences the interfacial free energy. In contrast the interaction parameter between solvent and surface influences the interfacial free energy to a large extent because the oil/surface interactions have a lower energetic value as compared to water/surface interactions and therefore the interfacial free energy is lower than in water. The interfacial free energy varies slightly with increasing buoy group length, depending on the value chosen for the solvent/surface interaction parameter. Advancing and receding contact angles of hexadecane, sunflower oil and hydrolysate (partly hydrolysed sunflower oil) were measured on hydrophobic surfaces. All oil/water contact angles were small, indicating a hydrophobic apolar surface character. It was found that, for oils with a "good" interaction with the surface (hexadecane and sunflower oil), the contact angle has a minimum value at a certain buoy group length. For hydrolysate (less-strong interaction with the surface) the contact angle decreases monotonically with increasing buoy group length. The results for hexadecane, sunflower oil and hydrolysate are in reasonable agreement with the model predictions. The effect of increasing buoy group length is weak; both decreasing and increasing angles are found, depending on the type of oil used.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-249
JournalColloids and Surfaces. A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects
Publication statusPublished - 1994


  • Block copolymers
  • Contact angle
  • Poly(ethylene oxide)
  • Poly(propylene oxide)
  • SF theory
  • Wettability


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