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Determining the density profile of confined polymer brushes with neutron reflectivity



Polymer molecules at solid or fluid interfaces have an enormous spectrum of applications in a wide variety of technologies as lubricants, adhesion modifiers, and protective surface coatings. Because polymer brushes have great potential to be used in such applications, there is a need to determine their structure and efficiency in reduced spaces. Using neutron reflectivity, we have directly quantified the density distribution of opposing polymer brushes under confinement in good solvent conditions under confinement. Our measurements show that the density profile in the overlap region between opposing polymer brushes flattens, consistent with predictions from molecular-dynamics simulations. In addition, a significant increase in the density at the anchoring surfaces due to the collapse of the brush layers was observed. This collapse of the brushes in restricted geometries suggests that high-density brushes do not interpenetrate significantly under good solvent conditions. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 42: 3290–3301, 2004

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