Characterization of ragweed pollen adhesion to polyamides and polystyrene using atomic force microscopy

Beng Joo Reginald Thio, Jung Hyun Lee, J. Carson Meredith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Pollen is a leading contributor to asthma and allergies, yet pollen adhesion to common indoor surfaces is not well understood. We report the adhesive behavior of short ragweed (A. artemisiifolia) pollen grains with Nylon 6 (N6) and Nylon 6,6 (N66), chosen due to their use in synthetic carpet, and three control surfaces: polyamide 12 (PA12), polystyrene (PS), and silicon. The forces were measured by using atomic force microscopy (AFM) under controlled humidity, where single pollen grains were attached to tipless AFM cantilevers. Pollen grains had an average adhesion of 10 ± 3 nN with the surfaces, independent of surface type or relative humidity from 20% to 60%. van der Waals forces are the primary molecular attraction driving pollen adhesion to these surfaces. The results also indicate that ragweed pollen contacts the polymer surface via its exine surface spikes, and the total adhesion force scales with the number of contacts. The pollen surface spikes are strong, resisting fracture and compliance up to a load of 0.5 GPa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4308-4313
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jun 15
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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