Tuning Wet Adhesion of Weak Polyelectrolyte Multilayers

2018-02-01T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Chao Li Yuanqing Gu Nicole S. Zacharia
Weak polyelectrolyte multilayers (PEMs) assembled by the layer-by-layer method are known to become tacky upon contact with water and behave as a viscoelastic fluid, but this wet adhesive property and how it can be modified by external stimuli has not yet been fully explored. We present here a study on the wet adhesive performance of PEMs consisting of branched poly­(ethylene imine) and poly­(acrylic acid) under controlled conditions (e.g., pH, type of salt, and ionic strength) using a 90° peel test. The multilayers demonstrate stick–slip behavior and fail cohesively in nearly all cases. The peel force is the highest at neutral pH, and it decreases in both acidic/basic environments because of inhibited polyelectrolyte mobility. The addition of salts with various metal ions generally reduces the peel force, and this effect tracks with the ionic strength. When transition metal ions are used, their ability to form coordination bonds increases the peel force, with two exceptions (Cu2+ and Zn2+). With a transition metal ion such as Fe3+, the peel force first increases as a function of the concentration and then eventually decreases. The peel force increases proportionally to the peel rate. The films are also characterized via zeta potential (when assembled onto colloidal particles) and shear rheometry. This work provides insight into both the wet adhesive properties of PEMs and the interactions between PEMs and metal ions.