Pull-off force measurements between rough surfaces by atomic force microscopy

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Direct measurements of the pull-off (adhesion) forces between pharmaceutical particles (beclomethasone dipropionate, a peptide-type material, and lactose) with irregular geometry and rough polymeric surfaces (series of polypropylene coatings, polycarbonate, and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) were carried out using the atomic force microscope. These measurements showed that roughness of the interacting surfaces is the significant factor affecting experimentally measured pull-off forces. A broad distribution of pull-off force values was noted in the measurements, caused by a varying adhesive contact area for a particle located on rough substrate. The possibility of multiple points of contact between irregularly shaped pharmaceutical particles and substrate surfaces is demonstrated with nanoindentations of the particle in a fluoro-polymer film. Force–distance curves showing the “sawtooth” pattern are additional evidence that particles make contact with substrates at more than one point. Reduced adhesion of 10- to 14-μm-diameter lactose and peptide material particles to the polypropylene coatings with a roughness of 194 nm was found in this study. Similar pull-off force versus roughness relationships are also reported for the model spherical particles, silanized glass particle with a size of 10 μm and polystyrene particle with a diameter of 9 μm, in contact with polypropylene coatings of varying roughness characteristics. It was found that the model recently proposed by Rabinovich et al. (J. Colloid Interface Sci. 232, 1–16 (2000)) closely predicts the pull-off forces for glass and lactose particles. On the other hand, the adhesion of the peptide material and polystyrene particle to polypropylene is underestimated by about an order of magnitude with the theoretical model, in which the interacting substrates are treated as rigid materials. The underestimate is attributed to the deformation of the peptide material and polystyrene particles.

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Copyright © 2002 Elsevier Science (USA). Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1006/jcis.2001.8126

Publication Title

Journal of Colloid and Interface Science