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Silicone Surface-Active Agents

By
Donna Perry
Dow Corning Corporation
Dow Corning Silicone Solutions
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Silicone Surface-Active Agents
by Donna Perry
Dow Corning Corporation
Introduction
Surface-active agents are chemicals that
reduce the surface energy of a material
to which they are added by absorption at
the air/liquid interface. The increasing
popularity of waterborne coatings presents
a continuing challenge for formulators.
There is the need to formulate more
environmentally acceptable products to
comply with government regulations on
VOCs, to reduce ammability and to
generally reduce the hazard prole of
coating systems.
In comparison with solvent-borne
systems, waterborne coatings exhibit a
much higher surface tension. This results
from water having a surface tension of
72.4 mN/m. As a result, waterborne
coatings exhibit poor substrate wetting
capabilities when compared to solvent-
based equivalents. The high surface
tension of water is due to its polarity and
the cohesive hydrogen bonding between
the water molecules.
Additives or surface-active agents,
such as silicone polyethers, are used to
modify the surface properties of water-
borne coatings to achieve the desired
ow, levelling and wetting performance.
Silicone polyethers have traditionally
been used in the coating area for surface
modication, but along with these types
of materials, Dow Corning has intro-
duced novel functionalities to broaden
applications and improve surfactant
performance.
This paper covers the traditional
performance attributes of the silicone
polyether additive class, while also
introducing novel carbinol functional
materials and their differences.
Surface Tension Effects in
Waterborne Coatings
Surface tension can be considered in
various ways, but perhaps best as a
result of the forces of attraction existing
between the molecules of a liquid. It is
measured by the force per unit length
acting in the surface at right angles to an
element of any line drawn in the surface
(mN/m).
Wetting is the effect of displacing
one uid from the substrate surface by
another liquid. In general, the liquid
must have the same or a lower surface
tension than the substrate; otherwise,
no wetting will be achieved. This will
produce a positive spreading coefcient
and lead to a good coating. This can
be best expressed in equation (1). By
addition of the correct additive, the
surface tension of the coating can be
modied to improve substrate wetting.
The additive acts by lowering the
surface tension of the coating, enabling
it to wet-out over the substrate.
Levelling is the process of eliminating
the surface irregularities of a continuous
liquid lm under the inuence of the
liquids surface tension. Levelling is an
important step in obtaining a smooth and
uniform lm. Concentration and surface
tension gradients in coatings are the
main causes of poor levelling, which
develop as the coating dries, due to
variations in drying rates. Addition of
the appropriate additive will modify the
surface tension. For instance, a silicone
additive will migrate to the liquid/air
interface, giving an even surface tension
across the lm during the drying
process, thus reducing surface tension
gradients.
Wetting and levelling are therefore
totally different processes. Though the
surface tension of the coating plays an
important role in both processes, the
effects of surface tension on spreading is
opposite to that observed in levelling.
Substrate wetting can be subdivided
into two distinct categories: spreading
wetting and adhesion wetting.
Spreading wetting is necessary for even
coverage of applied lms, in particular,
for the low-surface-energy substrates of
many plastics.
Adhesion wetting is dened in equation
(2). It is important, for example, in
printing processes in which it is
undesirable for the applied ink to spread
across a surface and then merge with
other colors.
Spreading wetting:
S
(Spreading coeff.)
= - G
Spreading
/ A
=
Substrate
-
Substrate/Liquid
-
Liquid
=
Liquid

(cos - 1) (1)
When
Substrate/Liquid
> 0 , spreading will occur spontaneously.
Adhesion wetting:
W
A(Work of adhesion)

= - G
Adhesion

/ A
=
Substrate
+
Liquid
-
Substrate/Liquid
=
Liquid
(cos +1) (2)
( (gamma) = Surface tension)
( (theta) = Contact angle)
Silicones as Surface-Active
Agents
Of the various surface-active chemistries
currently available, this paper will
mainly concentrate on a class of
materials called silicone polyethers
and the introduction of novel carbinol
materials based on similar structures.
This family of copolymers is used to
provide multifunctional benets in
waterborne systems. The main uses of
silicone polyethers in inks and coatings
include de-foaming, de-aerating,
improved substrate wetting and level-
ling, and enhanced slip properties
1,2
.
The three most common molecular
structures for silicone surfactants are
rake-type copolymers, ABA copolymers
and trisiloxane surfactants. These
are illustrated in Figures 1, 2 and 3
Figure 1: Molecular structure of a rake-type silicone surfactant.
CH
3
CH
3
(CH
3
)
3
Si O ( Si O )
x
-( Si O )
y
Si (CH
3
)
3
CH
3
(CH
2
)
3
(OCH
2
CH
2
)
n
OR
Figure 2: Molecular structure of an ABA-type siloxane surfactant.
Figure 3: Molecular structure of a trisiloxane surfactant.
CH
3

(CH
3
)
3
Si O Si O - Si (CH
3
)
3
(CH
2
)
3

(OCH
2
CH
2
)
n
OR
CH
3
CH
3
CH
3
RO (CH
2
CH
2
O)
n
(CH
2
)
3
Si O ( Si O )
x
Si (CH
2
)
3
(OCH
2
CH
2
)
n
OR
CH
3
CH
3
CH
3
respectively, and the performance of
these structures will be described in two
types of coatings.
Silicones are highly surface active due to
their low surface tension caused by the
large number of methyl groups and due
to the small intermolecular attractions
between the siloxane hydrophobes.
The siloxane backbone of the molecule
is highly exible, which allows for
maximum orientation of the attached
groups at interfaces.
Silicone polyethers are non-ionic and
have both a hydrophilic part (low-
molecular-weight polymer of ethylene
oxide or propylene oxide or both) and
a hydrophobic part (the methylated
siloxane moiety). The new carbinol-
functional materials also incorporate
a hydrophilic species on them and
function under the same principles in
which the traditional silicone polyethers
do. The polyether groups are either
ethylene oxide or propylene oxide,
and are attached to a side chain of the
siloxane backbone through a hydro-
silylation or condensation process. They
can form a rake-like, comb structure, or
linear structure. Silicone polyethers are
stable up to 320-256F (160-180C).
There is a great degree of exibility in
designing these types of polymers. A
very wide variety of co-polymers is
possible when the two chemistries are
combined.
They can be varied by molecular weight,
molecular structure (pendant/linear) and
the composition of the polyether chain
(EO/PO), and the ratio of siloxane to
polyether. The molecular weight
inuences the rate of migration to the
interface. The increased molecular
weight of a polymer typically leads to an
increased viscosity, but may also give
greater substantivity to surfaces and
improved shine level. Other variables
include absence or presence of function-
ality or end groups on the polyether
fragments.
Depending on the ratio of ethylene oxide
to propylene oxide, these molecules can
be water soluble, dispersible or insolu-
ble; obviously, for efcient wetting,
these surfactants need to have good
solubility in solution. As surfactants,
they have the ability to produce and
stabilize foam depending on their
structure. Conversely, if their solubility
parameters are low, they behave as anti-
foaming agents.
The different structures affect how the
molecules can pack at an interface. With
pendant types in aqueous media, the
silicone backbone aligns itself with the
interface, leaving the polyalkylene oxide
groups projecting into the water. Linear
types form a very attened W
alignment where the central silicone
portion of the molecule aligns with the
interface and the terminal groups are in
the aqueous phase. The amounts to be
added vary between 0.01% and 0.5% of
the total formulation.
This paper will now discuss the behavior
of silicone polyethers, along with
comparisons to silicones with novel
carbinol functionalities in water, together
with some studies in coating formula-
tions. The results are compared with
other additives that are currently used
in coatings.
Silicone Polyethers as
Wetting Agents
In this study, the three different siloxane
surfactants described above were
evaluated in aqueous solution, in a
water-based printing ink, and in a water-
based polyester coating, in comparison
with uorosurfactants and acetylenic
glycols, which are also used as wetting
agents. To achieve good wetting and a
positive spreading coefcient, the
surface tension of the coating must be
lower than the critical surface tension
of the substrate.
Water has a typical surface tension of
72 mN/m and, as can be seen from
Table I, all the surfactants tested reduced
the surface tension of the system, and,
as a result, the aqueous medium wetted
more efciently. For the silicone surfac-
tants, the best results were achieved
with product A, a low-molecular-weight
material. Trisiloxane A gave a very low
gure that was improved by the uoro-
surfactant.
The critical micelle concentration
(CMC) is the required level of product
to initiate the formation of micelles in
the bulk of a liquid. Up to this point, the
surfactant added to the water migrated
to the liquid/air interface to form a lm
that reduced the surface tension. The low
CMC for A showed its high packing
efciency at the interface, in the much
lower level required in comparison to the
other products.
In this context, it is important to
understand the difference between
equilibrium and dynamic surface
tension. For an equilibrium surface
tension measurement, a platinum plate
is immersed in a test solution and then
slowly withdrawn. The force required
to remove the plate from the solution
is a measure of the surface tension of
that liquid.
Dynamic surface tension can be
measured by an instrument that bubbles
air through the test liquid at an increas-
ing rate, during which the maximum
pressure that is required to form a
bubble is measured. As the bubble rate
increases from 1 bubble per second to
10, the time to create the new interface
(liquid/air) decreases. This is effectively
measuring how quickly the surfactant
lowers the surface tension.
Surfactant Equilibrium Surface Tension (nM/m) CMC (%)
Trisiloxane A 20.5 0.008
ABA Siloxane B 29.0 0.025
Rake Siloxane C 29.9 0.018
Fluorosurfactant 17.5 0.030
Ethoxylated Acetylenic Diol 25.3 0.050
Table I: Equilibrium surface tension with a Krss K10T tensiometer and a platinum
Wilhelmy plate, additive concentrations 0.1%.
Figure 4: Dynamic surface tension, maximum bubble pressure (Krss BP1),
0.1% in water.
The dynamic method is more represen-
tative of the coating application, for
example, spraying. Under these circum-
stances, it is important to know how
quickly a surfactant can migrate to
newly formed interfaces. An ideal
surface-active agent would provide
excellent surface tension reduction
under both equilibrium and dynamic
conditions.
Figure 4 shows dynamic surface tension
results for the above materials at 0.1%
in water. Trisiloxane A gives better
performance than the other silicone
polyethers, but does not give the very
low values achieved by either the
uorosurfactants or ethoxylated
acetylenic glycols. However, it must
be remembered that dynamic surface
tension represents only one aspect of
the total phenomenon.
Bubble Frequency (Hertz)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
70
60
50
40
30
20
m
N
/
m
C Additive, 0.1
B Additive, 0.1
A Additive, 0.1
F Surfactant, 0.1
Ethoxylated
Acetylenic Diol,
0.1
form a very thin continuous lm on the
substrate with effectively no contact
angle capable of being determined.
Figure 6 shows the behavior of the same
surfactants on a range of low-energy
substrates such as polyethylene and
polypropylene. For wetting, it has been
shown that the most efcient silicone
polyether is trisiloxane
A, which has three Si
atoms with pendant
ethylene oxide. The low
molecular weight and
size give greater
mobility in solution
and allow for very efcient packing at
interfaces. For critical low-energy
substrates, only the trisiloxane surfactant
A allows perfect (spontaneous) wetting
and excellent spreading.
In practice, not only the conditions at the
air/liquid interface are of interest but
also the conditions at the liquid/substrate
interface. In general, the smaller the
contact angle produced by a system,
the better the substrate wetting. The
equipment used to measure the contact
angle, theta (), was a VCA 2000
instrument that automatically dispensed
a minute droplet of the liquid to be
measured and then photographed the
droplet after a set period, or could be
programmed to take a number of
photographs and measure correspond-
ing contact angles after regular time
intervals. This technique enabled the
monitoring of droplets spreading on
non-porous surfaces.
When is greater than 90 degrees, as
in Figure 5, then beading or non-wetting
is occurring, as is shown by water on
a plastic surface such as high-density
polyethylene. If is less than 90
degrees, as shown in Figure 5, then
wetting is occurring; the smaller the
angle, the better the wetting process.
Spontaneous wetting occurs when =0,
the droplet immediately spreading to
Figure 6. Contact angle measurement with a VCA 2000 video
contact angle equipment, additive concentration at 0.1% in water.
Extending this performance behavior
now into practical life applications, the
effects of these surfactants in a water-
based exographic ink formulation are
shown in Figure 7. The addition of
siloxane surfactant A shows excellent
substrate wetting performance on plastic
foil, followed by the uorosurfactant.
The siloxane surfactants B and C, which
have a different structure and a higher
molecular weight, do not improve the
wetting behavior. It can be seen that the
acetylenic glycol has only a small impact
on the wetting behavior.
Any surfactant molecule has the potential
to generate foam that is undesirable in
many applications. Figure 8 shows the
density measurements after a high shear
stir test, which give an indication of air
entrapment in the ink. The siloxane
Figure 7: Flexographic printing ink, additive concentration
0.5%, wetting/appearance performance after application
on plastic foil (surface energy 34 mN/m) by draw down 12
micron, rated on a scale from 15.
Figure 8: Flexographic printing ink, additive concentration
0.5%, density measurement after dissolver stirring test
(5 minutes at 2800 rpm) as a measure of rate of foam
development.
Figure 5: Contact angle measurement.
Surface Energy of Substrate (mN/m)
32 34 36 38 40 42 44
120
100
80
60
40
20
0
C
o
n
t
a
c
t

A
n
g
l
e

(

)
Control
B Additive
C Additive
Ethoxylated
Acetylenic Diol
A Additive
F Surfactant





5
4
3
2
1
0
A
p
p
e
a
r
a
n
c
e
/
W
e
t
t
i
n
g
*
*Rating from 1-5, 1excellent
Control Trisiloxane A ABA B Rake C Acetylenic
Glycol
F Surfactant







0.95
0.9
0.85
0.8
0.75
0.7
0.65
0.6
D
e
n
s
i
t
y

i
n

(
g
/
c
m
3
)
Density without stirring: 1.10 g/cm
3
Control Trisiloxane A ABA B Rake Acetylenic
Glycol
F Surfactant
surfactant C (rake) acts only as a low-
to-moderate foam enhancer compared
to the uorosurfactant. What is also
interesting is that siloxane surfactant
B, the silicone product with the highest
molecular weight, is performing as a
de-aerator.
Silicones as Slip Additives
Slip represents the lubrication of a dry
coating surface. Given that the function
of a coating is often to protect the
underlying surface from damage while
maintaining a satisfactory appearance,
it is clear that the coating itself must be
capable of resisting mechanical damage.
This is where slip is important. It is
often referred to as mar resistance, rather
than abrasion resistance. In the latter, the
bulk mechanical properties of the lm
are important, in addition to the surface
lubricity.
Slip additives must reduce friction at
the coating surface. A thin layer of a
material with low inter-molecular
forces is capable of achieving this.
The slip additive should be sufciently
compatible with the coating before
application to avoid separation. After
application, it should not cause sheyes
or other defects associated with non-
wetting of the additive by the coating.
However, there has to be some degree of
incompatibility to drive the additive to
the surface of the coating lm during
drying.
Silicone polyethers are important as
slip agents due to their structure. The
ratio of the EO/PO segments has to be
carefully controlled to achieve the
required compatibility balance. Too
low a polyether content may lead to the
de-wetting defects already mentioned.
On the other hand, high polyether
content can render the copolymer too
soluble, with no driving force to get it
to the coating surface during drying.
As previously described for wetting, the
architecture of the copolymer has a
profound effect on its behavior as a slip
additive. Optimized structures have been
identied by designed experimentation
to give the desired combination of
compatibility and slip performance.
Compatibility is particularly important
in clear coatings, where gloss reduction
or haze is not acceptable.
Figure 9 shows slip angle results for
silicone-polyether copolymers A and B
in water-reducible stoving paint. The
main difference between the copolymers
is overall molecular weight. Both
products contain pendant polyether
groups. It can be seen that trisiloxane
A has almost no impact on slip. This is
believed to be due to the very short
nature of its silicone chains. A minimum
amount of dimethylsiloxy units is required
to give noticeable changes in slip. This
requirement is met in rake structure B,
which shows an improved slip.
Figure 9: Effect of molecular weight on slip performance
of silicone-polyether copolymers in water-reducible
polyester stoving paint (A: low molecular weight; B: high
molecular weight).
Novel Carbinol Function
Silicones in Comparison
to Traditional SPEs in
Architectural Coatings
The purpose of looking at new function-
alities was to determine if we could
improve hydrophilicity beyond what we
were seeing in the traditional silicone
polyethers that would lend themselves to
more easy-clean surface development.
In this study, two novel carbinol
functionality materials were compared to
a traditional silicone polyether of similar
degree of polymerization (Dp) and its
performance toward dirt release in an
architectural binder. Each sample was
doped into an acrylic-based binder by
weight of resin, and surface appearance
and properties were characterized. With
the incorporation of the novel carbinol
functionality, the data shows an increase
in the hydrophilicity of the coating as
compared to the traditional SPE (Table
II). This yields what was seen as an
Table II: Contact angle data.
Sample Water Contact Angle
Acrylic Binder 43
Binder with 1% ABA 34
Binder with 1% Novel ABA <15
Binder with 1% Novel Resin <15







35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
S
l
i
p

A
n
g
l
e

(

)
Control Trisiloxane A 0.1 Rake B 0.1
increase in the dirt-release ability of the
coating through simple water spraying.
This increase in hydrophilicity was seen
in both the ABA-structured materials as
well as resinous-based siloxanes.
After a simple draw down and cure time,
the coatings were dusted with a layer of
dirt and sprayed with water to note the
dirt-releasing properties. With the
addition of the ABA silicone polyether
structure, there was an enhancement of
the dirt-release properties, but this
enhancement was even greater in those
samples incorporating the new carbinol
functionality (Table III). One thing to be
noted is that the addition of the silicone
surfactants, either with the new carbinol
material or the traditional polyethers,
does cause a slight softening of the
coating itself, which actually correlates
into an initial dirt pickup that is slightly
enhanced over the neat acrylic binder
(Table IV).
Table III: Dirt-release characteristics through simple
spray method.
Table IV: Dirt pickup and pencil hardness.
Sample Dirt Release Properties
Binder 0
Binder with 1% ABA +
Binder with 1% Novel ABA ++
Binder with 1% Novel Resin ++
Formulation Dirt Pickup
Pencil
Hardness
Binder 0 3B
Binder with 1% ABA - 4/5B
Binder with 1% Novel ABA - 4/5B
Binder with 1% Novel Resin - 4B
Table V: Dirt release characteristics after outdoor aging.
Durability of this hydrophilicity is a
known deciency, given the current
additives function by migrating to the
surface and can often wash away over
an extended time with exposure to the
environment. After subjecting the
coatings to external weathering exposure
for 1008 hours, the dirt-release perfor-
mance decreased. The neat SG 30
sample no longer released dirt as easily,
Sample
Dirt Release
Properties after 1008
Hours Weathering
SG 30 Neat -
SG 30 with 1% ABA 0
SG 30 with 1% Novel ABA +
SG 30 with 1% Novel Resin ++
Figure 10: Mar resistance as a function of gloss.
though with the addition of the tradi-
tional ABA materials there was a slight
improvement over the baseline but not as
great as the unaged samples. The novel
ABA materials still showed signicant
improvement, while the resinous
materials showed excellent dirt-release
characteristics (Table V).
Novel Carbinol Functional
Silicones in Comparison with
Traditional SPEs in Overprint
Varnish Applications
A baseline formulation for a general-
purpose overprint varnish was obtained
by Johnson Polymers. The formulation
was run with and without the Aerosol
OT-75, noting no differences in the
wet-out performance, and was omitted
for all the runs with the addition of the
additives. The appearance and wet-out
of the OPV were not affected by the
incorporation of the siloxane additive,
either standard or with the novel
functionality.
Samples were coated onto Lentea charts
and run for 250 cycles on a Sutherland
rub tester with gloss being documented
prior and after rubs to determine each
formulations resistance to mar. The
initial point to be noted was an increase
in the initial gloss with siloxane
incorporation, excluding the standard
ABA and the BYK material bench-
marked against. Enhancement was
higher in those containing the novel
functionality. There was also better mar
resistance overall with all these samples,
versus the baseline material.

Formulation
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
Initial 250 Rubs
B
a
s
e
T
r
i
s
i
l
o
x
a
n
e
T
r
i
s
i
l
o
x
a
n
e

w
i
t
h

N
o
v
e
l
A
B
A


A
B
A

w
i
t
h

N
o
v
e
l
R
e
s
i
n

w
i
t
h

N
o
v
e
l
C
o
m
p
e
t
i
t
o
r

S
a
m
p
l
e
G
l
o
s
s
,

6
0

Coefcient of friction data (CoF) indicates


that the mar resistance improvements
were not due to increasing the slip of the
surface. By industry standards, the slip
change that was documented is within
error. This indicates a possibility for
applications such as oor varnish where
mar resistance needs to be increased
with no effect on the CoF or slipperiness
of the surface. The CoF data demon-
strates that the additive is not residing on
the surface but possibly allowing the PE
wax to better orientate at the surface and
yield higher mar resistance.
In looking at the surface tension data of
the materials used in this study there is
actually very little difference that would
indicate this is the reason why the
material performs this way.
Work continues to optimize the struc-
tures and nd application in which they
can be utilized.
Conclusions
Silicone-based surfactants offer many
benets in waterborne coatings. By the
addition of the correct silicone surfac-
tant, the coating surface tension can be
modied to improve substrate wetting.
In particular, the trisiloxane structure
gives the best equilibrium surface
tension reduction and excellent wetting
to plastic surfaces and other low-energy
substrates. This material has the greatest
capacity for lowering the liquid/solid
interfacial tension. The higher-molecular-
weight siloxane surfactants, with rake
and linear structures, give moderate
wetting. However, materials of these
types can be used to provide other
benets, for instance mar resistance,
slip and de-aeration. The incorporation
of a resinous material with functionality
can also yield a higher substantivity in
a coating that is likely desired when a
coating is being exposed to long-term
weathering effects. The addition of novel
functionalities in place of the linear
polyethers also can enhance the proper-
ties of the silicone polyether materials;
research is being done to ne-tune these
functionalities to the most appropriate
applications.
Surface Energy at 1%
(Dynes/cm)
Trisiloxane 20.1
Trisiloxane with Novel 21.2
ABA 24.6
ABA with Novel 23.8
Resin not soluble
Resin with Novel 26.4
Figure 11: Coefcient of friction data on OPV samples.
Table VI: Surface energy of standard and
modied siloxanes.

Formulation
0.25
0.2
0.15
0.1
0.05
0
Static CoF Kinetic CoF
B
a
s
e
T
r
i
s
i
l
o
x
a
n
e
T
r
i
s
i
l
o
x
a
n
e

w
i
t
h

N
o
v
e
l
A
B
A


A
B
A

w
i
t
h

N
o
v
e
l
R
e
s
i
n

w
i
t
h

N
o
v
e
l
C
o
m
p
e
t
i
t
o
r

S
a
m
p
l
e
C
o
F
References
1
Schlachter, I., and Feldmann-Krane, Georg, Silicone Surfactants, Surfactants Sci.
Ser., 1998, 74, p. 201-239.
2
Scholz, W., Verkroniek, 10, 13, 1995.
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LIMITED WARRANTY INFORMATION PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information contained herein is offered in good faith and is believed to be accurate. However,
because conditions and methods of use of our products are beyond our control, this information
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effective, and fully satisfactory for the intended end use. Suggestions of use shall not be taken as
inducements to infringe any patent.
Dow Cornings sole warranty is that the product will meet the Dow Corning sales specications in
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Your exclusive remedy for breach of such warranty is limited to refund of purchase price or
replacement of any product shown to be other than as warranted.
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We help you invent the future is a trademark of Dow Corning Corporation.
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