Optical flow cell reflectometry was used to study the adsorption of poly(vinylpyrrolidone) (PVP) to a silica surface and the subsequent surfactant adsorption and polymer desorption upon exposure to the anionic surfactant sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). We have studied these effects as a function of pH and surfactant concentration, but also for two different methods of silica preparation, O₂ plasma and piranha cleaning. As a function of pH, a plateau in the amount adsorbed of 0.6 mg/m² is observed below a critical pH, above which the adsorption decreases to zero within 2–3 pH units. An increase in pH leads to dissociation of surface OH groups and a decreased potential for hydrogen bonding between the polymer and surface. For the plasma- and piranha-cleaned silica, the critical pH differs by 1–2 pH units, a reflection of the much larger amount of surface OH groups on piranha-cleaned silica (for a given pH). Subsequent rinsing of the adsorbed layer of PVP with an SDS solution leads to total or partial desorption of the PVP layer. Any remaining adsorbed PVP then acts as an adsorption site for SDS. A large difference between plasma- and piranha-cleaned silica is observed, with the PVP layer adsorbed to plasma-cleaned silica being much more susceptible to desorption by SDS. For a plasma-cleaned surface at pH 5.5, only 30% of the originally adsorbed PVP is remaining, while for piranha-cleaned silica, the pH can be increased to 10 before a similar reduction in the amount of adsorbed PVP is seen. For a given pH, piranha-cleaned silica has a higher surface charge, leading to a smaller amount of adsorbed SDS per PVP chain on a piranha-cleaned surface compared to a plasma-cleaned surface under identical conditions. In that way, the high negative surface charge makes desorption by negatively charged SDS more difficult. The high surface charge thus protects the neutral polymer from surfactant-mediated desorption.

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Last edited: Friday September 10, 2010

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