Polymer Engineering Faculty Research


Control of Moisture at Buried Polymer/Alumina Interfaces through Substrate Surface Modification

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2005


Moisture absorption in poly(4-tert-butoxycarbonyloxystyrene) (PBOCSt) films supported on Al2O3 sputter coated silicon wafers is measured using neutron and X-ray reflectivity. Accumulation of water at the interface during moisture exposure results in an apparent film-thickness-dependent swelling for ultrathin PBOCSt films. The swelling of a film on Al2O3 is less than the swelling of a film of the same thickness on SiOx for films thinner than 20 nm. This is due to comparatively less moisture accumulation at the Al2O3/PBOCSt interface. A simple, zero adjustable parameter model consisting of a fixed water-rich layer at the interface and bulk swelling through the remainder of the film describes the thickness-dependent swelling quantitatively. The influence of four different Al2O3 surface treatments on the moisture distribution within PBOCSt films was examined:  bare Al2O3, tert-butylphosphonic acid, phenylphosphonic acid, and n-octyltrichlorosilane. Both the phenyl and the octyl surface treatments reduce the accumulation of water at the polymer/substrate interface. The tert-butyl treatment does not reduce the interfacial water concentration, presumably due to insufficient surface coverage.



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