Exploring the Use of Surfactants on Adhesive and Sealant Bonds

Posted on 5/6/2021 7:37:16 AM By ASC

Surfactants, chemical compounds also known as a surface-active agents, can play an important part in the reliability of manufactured products, and particularly so when it comes to sealant and adhesive bonding with substrates because of their ability to reduce surface tension. Not only does this compound enable better performance in the vital process of cleaning surfaces of contaminants and debris prior to bonding, but they can also adapt the surface tension of adhesives or sealants to be lower than the surface energy for a stronger and more lasting bond. 

These compounds’ ability to reduce surface tension of liquids and allow them to flow more freely in order to cover an entire surface, and  their ability to rid the surface of contaminants by making them soluble in the cleaning solution, have made them a vital part of the aqueous cleaning process used to prepare surfaces before sealants and adhesives are bonded with them, by preventing the adhesives and sealants from sliding off the surface, or having the bond strength affected by inconsistencies.

However, when surfactants are being used for the cleaning process there has to be careful control. If not properly controlled, and the process not completed by rinsing the surface with water that does not contain surfactants, contaminants it made soluble, as well as residual surfactants could  be left on the surface. The result could equal the same negative effect on bonding as the original chemicals, soils, and debris on the surface before it was cleaned would have had, and end up damaging the bond. Residual surfactants can also decrease the effectiveness of surface treatments added to improve the strength and durability of adhesives or sealants.

Control is also necessary when relying on surfactants to lower the surface tension of adhesives or sealants to below the surface energy for a stronger and more lasting bond, as this process might have other effects on either the surface or the adhesives and sealants.