Polyelectrolyte-mediated interaction between similarly charged surfaces: Role of divalent counter ions in tuning surface forces

T. Abraham, A. Kumpulainen, Z. Xu, M. Rutland, P. M. Claesson, J. Masliyah

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The effects of divalent salts (CaCl2, MgCl2 and BaCl2) in promoting the adsorption of weakly charged polyelectrolyte (polyacrylic acid), PAA, Mw ∼ 250000 g/mol) on mica surfaces and their role in tuning the nature of interactions between such adsorbed polyelectrolyte layers were studied using the interferometric surface forces apparatus. With mica surfaces in 3 mM MgCl2 solutions at pH ∼8.0-9.0, the addition of 10 ppm PAA resulted in a long-range attractive bridging force and a short-range repulsive steric force. This force profile indicates a low surface coverage and weak adsorption. The range of the force can be related to the characteristic length scale RG of polyelectrolyte chains using a scaling description. An increase of the PAA concentration to 50 ppm changed the attractive force profile to a monotonic, long-range repulsive interaction extending up to 600 Å due to the increased surface coverage of polyelectrolyte chains on the mica surfaces. Comparison of the measured forces with a scaling mean field model suggests that the adsorbed polyelectrolyte chains are stretched, which eventually give rise to the polyelectrolyte brush like structure. When the mica surfaces were preincubated in 3 mM CaCl2 at pH ∼8.0-9.0, in contrast to the case of 3 mM MgCl2, the addition of 10 ppm PAA resulted in a more complex force profile: long-range repulsive forces extending up to 800 Å followed by an attractive force regime and a second repulsive force regime at shorter separations. The long-range electrosteric forces can be attributed to strong adsorption of polyelectrolyte chains on mica surfaces (high surface coverage) which is facilitated by the presence of Ca2+ ions, while the intermediate range attractive forces can be ascribed to Ca2+ assisted bridging between adsorbed polyelectrolyte chains. Also interesting is to note various relaxation processes present in this system. In contrast to both MgCl2 and CaCl2 systems, with mica surfaces in 3 mM BaCl2 solution at pH ∼8.0-9.0, the addition of 10 ppm PAA resulted in precipitation of polyelectrolyte chains on mica surfaces, resulting in an extremely long-range monotonic repulsive force profile. In summary, our study showed that divalent counterions (Mg2+, Ca2+, and Ba2+) exhibit significantly different behavior in promoting PAA adsorption on mica surfaces, modifying and controlling various surface interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8321-8327
Number of pages7
Issue number26
StatePublished - Dec 25 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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