Design of dual hydrophobic–hydrophilic polymer networks for highly lubricious polyether-urethane coatings

Peter T.M. Albers, Stefan P.W. Govers, Jozua Laven, Leendert G.J. van der Ven, Rolf A.T.M. van Benthem, Gijsbertus de With (Corresponding author), A. Catarina C. Esteves (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Bio-lubricated surfaces found in nature have inspired the design of low friction polymer coatings for biomedical
applications. This work presents a systematic study of the relation between the network structure parameters
and the macroscopic friction properties of highly lubricious dual hydrophobic/hydrophilic polyurethane (PU)
coatings in an aqueous environment. Chemically cross-linked PU coatings were prepared by adding poly(ethylene
glycol) mono-methyl ether (mPEG) as hydrophilic dangling chains, or poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-diol as
hydrophilic elastically active network chains, to poly(propylene glycol) (PPG)-PU coating formulations. The
friction behaviour of the water swollen coatings was measured using a custom-made water immersed tribology
setup. Addition of the PEG segments or mPEG dangling chains to hydrophobic PPG coatings greatly enhances the
lubricious properties of the coatings. These dual hydrophobic/hydrophilic diol PU network exhibit a surface with
a lower coefficient of friction compared to reference coatings from either individual precursors, demonstrating a
large synergistic effect between the hydrophobic PPG and the hydrophilic PEG in the coatings. Based on network
structure and surface chain considerations it is hypothesized that the existence of a thin and softer hydrated
surface layer on top of a less hydrated, more rigid, coating bulk layer gives rise to the observed enhanced
lubricious properties, hereby mimicking to some extent bio-lubricated systems, such as cartilage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-94
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Polymer Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Aqueous lubrication
  • Dual hydrophobic/hydrophilic
  • Hydrophilic coating
  • Lubricious polymer coating
  • Polymer friction


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