Beyond surface charge to wettability: The extra gear of the zeta potential

Zeta potential analysis and contact angle measurement are complementary techniques that address the solid-water interface. The zeta potential represents the surface and interfacial charge and helps to characterize surface functional groups, which trigger the wettability of material surfaces. Contact angle provides information about the wettability of surfaces and is used to calculate surface energy. This application report shows correlations between these interfacial parameters and highlights where surface zeta potential analysis provides an additional benefit in material surface characterization.


The measurements of contact angle and zeta potential address properties of the solid-liquid interface. When focusing on water and aqueous solutions these interfacial parameters deliver complementary information on surface hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity, and surface and interfacial charge. The physico-chemical properties of surface functional groups determine the interaction with water and are responsible for the formation of surface charge as well as for the degree of surface hydrophobicity and hydrophilicity. Although water contact angle and surface zeta potential results originate from different analytical methods, it is not surprising to find an empirical correlation among these parameters for a certain family of materials such as polymers.

In this report we will revisit the different techniques for the direct or indirect measurement of the water contact angle and for the surface zeta potential, and emphasize the complementarity of these interfacial parameters by selected application examples. We will review the correlation between the water contact angle and the surface zeta potential and highlight the applicability of the corresponding measuring techniques and the extra benefit of the surface zeta potential analysis.

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