New SFA techniques for studying surface forces and thin film patterns induced by electric fields

Hongbo Zeng, Yu Tian, Travers H. Anderson, Matthew Tirrell, Jacob N. Israelachvili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


We describe two ways to measure normal and/or lateral forces between two surfaces in a surface forces apparatus (SFA) while an electric field is applied between the surfaces. The first method involves depositing thin conductive layers on the exposed substrate (usually mica) sheets; the second involves using the optically reflecting silver layers on the back surfaces of the sheets as the electrodes. Two types of experiments were performed using these new techniques: (1) measuring the effects of an electric field on the rheology of an ∼40-μm-thick film of zeolite particles suspended in silicone oil and (2) a dynamic study of electric field-induced pattern formation of a thin polymer film. In the first study, under an electric field of strength ∼10 6 V/m the shear force or effective viscosity of the colloid suspension was found to be two orders of magnitude higher than in the absence of the field, when the expected bulk value was measured. In the dynamic study, the initially uniform film transformed into a 2-D honeycombed network of depressed cells bounded by elevated ridges that grew slowly with time in a way consistent with previously derived theories. The new techniques should be applicable to studies of other systems and interactions, such as double-layer forces, micro- and nanoelectrorheology, electric field-induced ordering of particles, and the effects of electric fields on adhesion, friction, and lubrication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1173-1182
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 19 2008
Externally publishedYes


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