In an article published in the Journal of Adhesion Science and Technology, "Water Contact Angle as a Quantitative Measure of Total Polyethylene Surface Energy" Materials Scientists from Brighton Science (formerly BTG Labs) explain the validity of water contact angle as a measurement for total surface energy.
In this article, polyethylene surfaces were plasma-treated to different levels. Contact angle measurements of 5 liquids were then taken on differently treated pieces and in different areas of those pieces.
A trend arose. While the water contact angle (sensitive to the polar component) decreased as surface energy increased, the dispersive (non-polar) component remained the same. Surface treatment did not affect the non-polar component. Thus, because the non-polar component remains constant and unaffected by surface treatments, the polar component–measured by contact angle–may serve as a quantitative measurement of total surface energy.
Read the full article for an in-depth description of the oxidized polyethylene experiment and the data on quantitatively measuring surface energy with water contact angle.
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