The co-polymer poly(L-lysine)-g-poly(ethylene glycol) (PLL-g-PEG) has been investigated as a potential biomimetic boundary-lubrication additive for aqueous lubrication systems. In this work, the influence of the co-polymer’s architecture on its tribological performance has been investigated. The architectural parameters investigated comprise side-chain (PEG) length, Lys/PEG grafting ratio and backbone chain (PLL) length. The tribological approaches applied in this work include ultra-thin-film interferometry, the mini-traction machine (MTM), and pin-on-disk tribometry. Both an increase in the molecular weight of the PEG side chains and a reduction in the grafting ratio result in an improvement in the lubricating properties of aqueous PLL-g-PEG solution at low speeds. MTM measurements show that an increase in the molecular weight of the PLL backbone results in an increase of the coefficient of friction.
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