Forces between polyethylene surfaces in oxyethylene dodecyl ether solutions as influenced by the number of oxyethylene groups

Document Type


Publication Date



The atomic force microscopy (AFM) colloidal probe technique was used to study the effect of oxyethylene dodecyl ethers, C12En (n = 1-7), on interactions between hydrophobic polyethylene (PE) surfaces in aqueous solutions. Long-range (colloidal) and contact (pull-off) forces were measured between 10 to 20 μm PE spheres and a flat PE surface at concentrations of surfactant of 1 × 10-6 and 1 × 10-4 M. The surface tension of the surfactant solutions and contact angles at PE surfaces were also studied. The influence of the number of oxyethylene groups in the surfactant molecule was examined. Initially, long-range attractive (hydrophobic) forces between the PE surfaces were observed that decreased in range and magnitude with an increase in the number of oxyethylene groups in 1 × 10-4 M solutions. Above four oxyethylene groups per molecule, repulsive forces were observed. The measured pull-off force between PE surfaces decreased monotonically from approximately 500 mJ/m2 for C 12E1 to 150 mJ/m2 for C12E 7. The interfacial energy was calculated on the basis of the JKR model, taking into account long-range forces operating outside the contact area. The interfacial energies decreased from 43-47 mJ/m2 for PE-water and PE-C12E1 (1 × 10-4 M) interfaces to ∼ 18 mJ/m2 for PE-C12E7 (1 × 10 -4 M). The interfacial energy was also calculated from measured contact angles and surface tensions using Neumann's equation of state and Young's equation. A similar relationship between interfacial energy and the number of oxyethylene groups was observed on the basis of contact and surface tension measurements. However, interfacial energy values were smaller, within 15-20 mJ/m2, than those calculated from AFM pull-off force measurements. © 2008 American Chemical Society.

Publication Title