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Issue 7, 2006
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Friction and lubrication of hydrogels—its richness and complexity

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Biological connective tissues, such as cartilage and corneal stroma, are essentially hydrogels consisting of fibrous collagen and proteoglycans. Little is known of the surface properties of the hydrogel, although we observe fascinating tribological behavior in biological soft tissues, such as extremely low friction between animal cartilages. We consider that the role of the solvated polymer network existing in the extracellular matrix as a gel state is critically important in the specific frictional behavior of cartilages. In order to elucidate the general tribological features of a solvated polymer matrix, the friction of various kinds of hydrogels has been investigated, and very rich and complex frictional behaviors are observed. The friction force and its dependence on the load differ with the chemical structure of the gels, surface properties of the opposing substrates, and the measurement conditions, which are totally different from those of solids. Most importantly, the coefficient of friction of gels, μ, varies over a wide range and exhibits very low values (μ ≈ 10−3–10−4), which cannot be obtained from the friction between two solid materials. A repulsion–adsorption model has been proposed to explain the gel friction, which says that the friction is due to lubrication of a hydrated layer of polymer chains when the polymer chain of the gel is non-adhesive (repulsive) to the substrate, and the friction is due to elastic deformation of the adsorbed polymer chain when it is adhesive to the substrate.

Graphical abstract: Friction and lubrication of hydrogels—its richness and complexity

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Publication details

The article was received on 02 Mar 2006, accepted on 08 May 2006 and first published on 25 May 2006

Article type: Highlight
DOI: 10.1039/B603209P
Soft Matter, 2006,2, 544-552

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    Friction and lubrication of hydrogels—its richness and complexity

    J. P. Gong, Soft Matter, 2006, 2, 544
    DOI: 10.1039/B603209P

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