Friction and adsorption of aqueous polyoxyethylene (Tween) surfactants at hydrophobic surfaces

Malgorzata Graca, Jeroen H.H. Bongaerts, Jason R. Stokes, Steve Granick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nanotribological responses of a series of nonionic polyoxyethylene surfactants (Tween 20, Tween 40, Tween 60, and Tween 80) were investigated after they were adsorbed from aqueous solution onto atomically smooth hydrophobic substrates. The hydrophobic surfaces were composed of a condensed monolayer of octadecyltriethoxysilane (OTE; contact angle θ > 110 °). The nanorheological measurements were performed using a modified surface forces apparatus after coating atomically smooth mica with these OTE monolayers, while adsorption measurements were performed using phase-modulated ellipsometry on silicon wafers coated with these same monolayers. The minimum surface-surface separation observed under high load in friction studies agreed quantitatively with the thickness obtained from ellipsometry. For Tweens 20, 40, and 60, the thickness of the adsorbed film increases with increasing alkyl chain length. Systematic investigations of the nanorheological response showed that there is a "solid-like" elastic response from confined surfactant layers, which is the case for the smallest separations to separations up to slightly larger than twice the adsorbed film thickness. In kinetic friction, these confined layers are characterized by a shear stress of approximately 3 MPa with minimal dependence on shear rate. The magnitude of the sliding shear stress is the same as the apparent yield stress at ≈3 MPa; it is independent of alkyl chain length within the Tween family of surfactants and corresponds to a nominal friction coefficient of μ ∼ 1. A similar friction coefficient is observed for boundary lubrication on the macroscopic scale in a tribometer utilizing hydrophobic surfaces and μ ≈ 1.1 for Tweens 20, 40, and 60. These results suggest that while Tween molecules adsorb onto hydrophobic surfaces to form a robust separating layer, the lubricating properties of these layers are dominated by a highly dissipative slip plane, the same for all alkyl chain lengths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)662-670
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Colloid And Interface Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Adsorption
  • Contact angle
  • Friction
  • Hydrophobic
  • Micelles
  • Rheology
  • SFA
  • Shear
  • Surfactant
  • Tribology
  • Tween

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces and Interfaces


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