Exploring ways to control the properties of polymer thin films
Clough, Andrew R
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Understanding the causes of deviations from bulk-like properties observed in polymer thin films is of interest both from a fundamental standpoint and in order to tailor the properties of polymer thin films used by industry as coatings and in the production of microelectronic devices. As thicknesses are decreased below 100 nm, interfacial effects start to become important. In addition, a confinement effect occurs when the film thickness becomes comparable to the unperturbed size of the polymer chain. In this thesis, we modify polymer films in a controllable way in order to study how some of these properties may be related and potentially adjusted. One of these properties is the glass transition temperature, which is seen to vary with the film thickness for films thinner than 100 nm. While there appears to be a consensus that the variation is attributable to the interactions the polymer has with the film interfaces, important questions concerning how the observed changes may affect the onset of large scale, liquid-like motions in the films have been seldom investigated. We modify the substrate interface with grafted polymer chains, which is known to instill interfacial slippage, to investigate the relation, if any, between the glass transition temperature and large scale chain motions in the films. As another part of the effort to find ways to control the properties of polymer films, we study the effect of swelling films with solvents of different qualities. Studies have shown that modifying the solvent quality used when preparing films by spin-coating, in which solvent from a polymer solution is rapidly removed to form thin uniform films, can affect some properties by modifying the degree of inter-chain entanglement in the film. As it is often difficult to spin-coat films when the solvent is poor, we investigate whether solvent swelling can also be used to modify this entanglement. We find that solvent swelling is able to modify the degree of entanglement in the films. Most importantly, swelling with a poor solvent allows us to reduce the degree of inter-chain entanglement, bringing the film further from equilibrium.
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