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High Throughput Measurement of the Elastic Modulus of Polymer Thin Films

Christopher M. Stafford, Arnaud Chiche, Duangrut Julthongpiput, Michael J. Fasolka

Polymers Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8542

Combinatorial and High Throughput (C&HT) methods combine clever experiment design, instrument automation, and computing tools to form a new paradigm for scientific research. Given this premise, the C&HT concept is being adapted to study problems in materials science. However, the C&HT methods developed for the pharmaceutical industry often cannot be applied directly to materials research since methods for generating materials libraries and for rapidly measuring properties, especially mechanical properties, are often lacking.

For example, there exist few techniques to measure the mechanical properties of polymer thin films (e.g., nanoindentation, atomic force microscopy, surface acoustical wave spectroscopy, Brillouin light scattering), each having their own limitations and none of which are positioned to be applied as high-throughput measurements. To this end, we have developed a HT platform for measuring the mechanical properties of polymer thin films based on a wrinkling instability in bilayers and laminates. Indeed, this technique is very simple and practically any laboratory, academic or industrial, can perform such measurements with only modest investment in equipment.

This poster will illustrate the quantitative nature of this novel measurement technique by demonstrating its applicability to a range of model polymer systems. Furthermore, we apply this technique to a number of scientific challenges in material science, including nanoporous low-k films and ultrathin (thickness < 20 nm) polymer films. Additionally, this wrinkling phenomenon is being exploited as a novel micro-fabrication technique that is being harnessed as a method for generating model rough surfaces without the need for expensive masks.

Author Information:

Christopher M. Stafford

Polymers Division, MSEL

Rm B224 / Bldg 224

MS 8542

phone - 301-975-4368

fax - 301-975-4924

email -

Sigma Xi member? - no

Category - Materials