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Study of Polymer Crystallization by Physical Vapor Deposition

Speaker: Hyuncheol Jeong
Series: Final Public Oral Examinations
Location: Eisenhart Room (E-Quad G201)
Date/Time: Monday, May 8, 2017, 9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

When a polymer is confined under the submicron length scale, confinement size and interfaces can significantly impact the crystallization kinetics and resulting morphology. The ability to tune the morphology of confined polymer systems is of critical importance for the development of high-performance polymer  microelectronics.  The wisdom from the research on confined crystallization suggests that it would be beneficial to have a processing route in which the crystallization of polymers is driven by interface and temperature effects at a nanometer-scale confinement.

In practice, for atomic and small-molecular systems, physical vapor deposition (PVD) has been recognized as the most successful processing route for the precise control of the film structure at surface utilizing confinement effects. While standard PVD technologies are not generally applicable to the deposition of the chemically fragile macromolecules, the development of matrix-assisted pulsed laser evaporation (MAPLE) now enables the non-destructive PVD of high-molecular weight polymers.

In this thesis work, we investigated the use of MAPLE for the precise control of the crystallization of polymer films at a molecular level.  We also sought to decipher the rules governing the crystallization of confined polymers, by using MAPLE as a tool to form confined polymer systems onto substrates with a controlled temperature.  We first explored the early stages of film growth and crystallization of poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) at the substrate surface formed by MAPLE. The unique mechanism of film formation in MAPLE, the deposition of submicron-sized polymer droplets, allowed for the manifestation of confinement and substrate effects in the crystallization of MAPLE-deposited PEO.  Furthermore, we also focused on the property of the amorphous PEO film formed by MAPLE, showing the dependence of polymer crystallization kinetics on the thermal history of the amorphous phase.

Lastly, we probed how MAPLE processing affected the semi-crystalline structure in MAPLE-deposited polyethylene (PE) films.  Depositing PE at various temperatures remarkably allowed for the tunability of the melting temperature and crystallinity of the PE films, thus manipulating the semi-crystalline structure.  By comparing the structure of PE formed by different processing routes, i.e., MAPLE and melt-crystallization, we discussed how processing routes affect the development of semi-crystalline phase in polymer films.