We have compared the lubricating properties of two different PEG-grafted, polycationic, brush-forming copolymers to gain a deeper understanding of the role of the polyionic backbone in the lubricating behavior of such materials, when used as additives in aqueous lubricant systems. Previously, poly(l-lysine)-graft-poly(ethylene glycol) (PLL-g-PEG) has been shown to adsorb onto oxide surfaces from aqueous solution and substantially lower frictional forces. Poly(allylamine)-graft-poly(ethylene glycol) (PAAm-g-PEG), which also has a polycationic backbone, has been synthesized in several different architectures, and its performance investigated via adsorption tests, rolling- and sliding-contact tribometry, and the surface forces apparatus. These tests show a clear reduction of friction forces with PAAm-g-PEG compared to water alone. However, when compared with PLL-g-PEG, while PAAm-g-PEG copolymers did not adsorb to the same extent or exhibit as high a lubricity in sliding geometry, they showed a similar lubricating effect under rolling conditions. The difference in the chemical structure of the backbones, especially the flexibility of the anchoring groups, appears to significantly influence both the extent and kinetics of polymer adsorption, which in turn influences lubrication behavior.
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