Polymer Engineering Faculty Research


Moisture absorption into ultrathin hydrophilic polymer films on different substrate surfaces

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2005


Moisture absorption into ultrathin poly(vinyl pyrrolidone) (PVP) films with varying thickness was examined using X-ray reflectivity (XR) and quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) measurements. Two different surfaces were used for the substrate: a hydrophilic silicon oxide (SiOx) and a hydrophobic hexamethyldisilazane (HMDS) treated silicon oxide surface. The total equilibrium moisture absorption (solubility) was insensitive to the surface treatment in the thickest films (≈150 nm). However, strong reductions in the equilibrium uptake with decreasing PVP film thickness were observed on the HMDS surfaces, while the SiOx surface exhibited thickness independent equilibrium absorption. The decreased absorption with decreasing film thickness is attributed a depletion layer of water near the polymer/HMDS interface, arising from hydrophobic interactions between the surface and water. The diffusivity of water decreased when the film thickness was less than 60 nm, independent of the surface treatment. Changes in the properties of ultrathin polymer films occur even in plasticized films containing nearly 50% water.



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