Direct Surface Force Measurements of Polyelectrolyte Multilayer Films Containing Nanocrystalline Cellulose
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Polyelectrolyte multilayer films containing nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) and poly(allylamine hydrochloride) (PAH) make up a new class of nanostructured composite with applications ranging from coatings to biomedical devices. Moreover, these materials are amenable to surface force studies using colloid-probe atomic force microscopy (CP-AFM). For electrostatically assembled films with either NCC or PAH as the outermost layer, surface morphology was investigated by AFM and wettability was examined by contact angle measurements. By varying the surrounding ionic strength and pH, the relative contributions from electrostatic, van der Waals, steric, and polymer bridging interactions were evaluated. The ionic cross-linking in these films rendered them stable under all solution conditions studied although swelling at low pH and high ionic strength was inferred. The underlying polymer layer in the multilayered film was found to dictate the dominant surface forces when polymer migration and chain extension were facilitated. The precontact normal forces between a silica probe and an NCC-capped multilayer film were monotonically repulsive at pH values where the material surfaces were similarly and fully charged. In contrast, at pH 3.5, the anionic surfaces were weakly charged but the underlying layer of cationic PAH was fully charged and attractive forces dominated due to polymer bridging from extended PAH chains. The interaction with an anionic carboxylic acid probe showed similar behavior to the silica probe; however, for a cationic amine probe with an anionic NCC-capped film, electrostatic double-layer attraction at low pH, and electrostatic double-layer repulsion at high pH, were observed. Finally, the effect of the capping layer was studied with an anionic probe, which indicated that NCC-capped films exhibited purely repulsive forces which were larger in magnitude than the combination of electrostatic double-layer attraction and steric repulsion, measured for PAH-capped films. Wherever possible, DLVO theory was used to fit the measured surface forces and apparent surface potentials and surface charge densities were calculated.