Evaluation of the surface free energy of plant surfaces: toward standardizing the procedure

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Fernández, Victoria
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Plant surfaces have been found to have a major chemical and physical heterogeneity and play a key protecting role against multiple stress factors. During the last decade, there is a raising interest in examining plant surface properties for the development of biomimetic materials. Contact angle measurement of different liquids is a common tool for characterizing synthetic materials, which is just beginning to be applied to plant surfaces. However, some studies performed with polymers and other materials showed that for the same surface, different surface free energy values may be obtained depending on the number and nature of the test liquids analyzed, materials' properties, and surface free energy calculation methods employed. For 3 rough and 3 rather smooth plant materials, we calculated their surface free energy using 2 or 3 test liquids and 3 different calculation methods. Regardless of the degree of surface roughness, the methods based on 2 test liquids often led to the under- or over-estimation of surface free energies as compared to the results derived from the 3 Liquids method. Given the major chemical and structural diversity of plant surfaces, it is concluded that 3 different liquids must be considered for characterizing materials of unknown physico-chemical properties, which may significantly differ in terms of polar and dispersive interactions. Since there are just few surface free energy data of plant surfaces with the aim of standardizing the calculation procedure and interpretation of the results among for instance, different species, organs, or phenological states, we suggest the use of 3 liquids and the mean surface tension values provided in this study.
© 2015 Fernández and Khayet. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).VF is supported by a Ramón y Cajal contract (MINECO, Spain), co-financed by the European Social Fund. Thanks to Ricardo Fernández for his technical support for the development of this study.
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