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Polymersomes are hollow spheres self-assembled from amphiphilic block copolymers of certain molecular architecture. Whilst they have been widely studied for biomedical applications, relatively few studies have reported their interfacial properties. In particular, lubrication by polymersomes has not been previously reported. Here, interfacial properties of polymersomes self-assembled from poly(butadiene)-poly(ethylene oxide) (PBD-PEO; molecular weight 10,400 g mol−1) have been studied at both hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces. Their morphology at silica and mica surfaces was imaged with quantitative nanomechanical property mapping atomic force microscopy (QNM AFM), and friction and surface forces they mediate under confinement between two surfaces were studied using colloidal probe AFM (CP-AFM). We find that the polymersomes remained intact but adopted flattened conformation once adsorbed to mica, with a relatively low coverage. However, on silica these polymersomes were unstable, rupturing to form donut shaped residues or patchy bilayers. On a silica surface hydrophobized with a 19 nm polystyrene (PS) film, the polymer vesicles formed a more stable layer with a higher surface coverage as compared to the hydrophilic surface, and the interfacial structure also evolved over time. Moreover, friction was greatly reduced on hydrophobized silica surfaces in the presence of polymersomes, suggesting their potential as effective aqueous lubricants.
- Polymer vesicles
- Solid-liquid interface
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