Thin film rheology and lubricity of hyaluronic acid solutions at a normal physiological concentration

Rafael Tadmor, Nianhuan Chen, Jacob N. Israelachvili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Using a surface forces apparatus to measure forces, and optical (multiple beam) interferometry to measure surface shapes and separations (to ±1 Å), the normal, viscous, and shear (lubrication) forces between smooth mica surfaces in aqueous hyaluronic acid (HA) solutions were measured. The experimental conditions of loading pressures, pH, and HA concentration were set to closely correspond to physiological human knee-joint conditions. From the force and optical (refractive index) measurements, it was concluded that, like other negatively charged polyelectrolytes, HA does not naturally adsorb on the mica surface which is hydrophilic and weakly negatively charged at physiological conditions: the polymer solution exhibits the bulk viscosity (22.5 ± 1.5 cP) for films thicker than about 0.4 μm of the polymer, whereas for thinner films, the viscosity decreases monotonically toward the value of the pure electrolyte solution (1 cP) as HA is extruded from between the surfaces. This is indicative of a repulsive "depletion" interaction of HA with each mica surface and to a weakly attractive polymer-mediated force between the two surfaces. Thus, free HA in synovial fluid is not expected to act as a good "boundary lubricant." Relaxation measurements on approaching and receding surfaces in HA solutions were also performed, and it is shown that the presence of HA in the bulk solution can improve "hydrodynamic" modes of lubrication, for example, by assuaging the compression stroke. The study includes information that is beneficial to researchers working with biomaterials viscosupplementation devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-523
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Biolubrication
  • Depletion interaction
  • Hyaluronan
  • Hyarulonate
  • Hydrodynamic lubrication
  • Mark-Houwink coefficients
  • Polyelectrolytes
  • Thin film viscosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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