Effect of salt on the compression of polyelectrolyte brushes in a theta solvent
Matsen, M. W. (2012) Effect of salt on the compression of polyelectrolyte brushes in a theta solvent. European Physical Journal E, 13 (2). p. 13. ISSN 1292-8941
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1140/epje/i2012-12013-2
Classical strong-stretching theory (SST) predicts that, as opposing polyelectrolyte brushes are compressed together in a salt-free theta solvent, they contract so as to maintain a finite polymer-free gap, which offers a potential explanation for the ultra-low frictional forces observed in experiments even with the application of large normal forces. However, the SST ignores chain fluctuations, which would tend to close the gap resulting in physical contact and in turn significant friction. In a preceding study, we examined the effect of fluctuations using self-consistent field theory (SCFT) and illustrated that high normal forces can still be applied before the gap is destroyed. We now look at the effect of adding salt. It is found to reduce the long-range interaction between the brushes but has little effect on the short-range part, provided the concentration does not enter the salted-brush regime. Consequently, the maximum normal force between two planar brushes at the point of contact is remarkably unaffected by salt. For the crossed-cylinder geometry commonly used in experiments, however, there is a gradual reduction because in this case the long-range part of the interaction contributes to the maximum normal force.