We report on the synthesis and characterization of elastomer colloidal AFM probes. Poly(dimethylsiloxane) microparticles, obtained by water emulsification and cross-linking of viscous prepolymers, are glued to AFM cantilevers and used for contact mechanics investigations on smooth substrates: in detail cyclic loading-unloading experiments are carried on ion-sputtered mica, the deformation rate and dwell time being separately controlled. We analyze load-penetration curves and pull-off forces with models due respectively to Zener; Maugis and Barquins; and Greenwood and Johnson and account for bulk creep, interfacial viscoelasticity, and structural rearrangements at the polymer-substrate interface. A good agreement is found between experiments and theory, with a straightforward estimation of colloidal probes' material parameters. We suggest the use of such probes for novel contact mechanics experiments involving fully reversible deformations at the submicrometer scale.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry