Polymer Engineering Faculty Research


Impact of thickness on CO2 concentration profiles within polymer films swollen near the critical pressure

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2009


The isothermal swelling of polymer thin films by a supercritical fluid does not increase monotonically with increasing chemical potential (pressure), but rather a maximum in swelling is generally observed near the critical pressure. A reactive templating approach utilizing the condensation of silica within hydrophilic domains of a swollen amphiphilic polymer film enables visualization of the qualitative concentration profile of CO2 by the changes in the size of hydrophobic domains (pores) with cross sectional TEM microscopy; specifically, isothermal swelling of poly(ethylene oxide-propylene oxide-ethylene oxide) films by CO2 at 60 °C is examined. Films that contain thickness gradients are used to avoid any uncertainties in the impact of thickness due to variations in the temperature or pressure during the silica modification. A uniform pore size (local swelling) is observed for all film thicknesses when the pressure is outside of the anomalous maximum in the film swelling, except for a small increase at the buried interface due to preferential adsorption of CO2 to the native silicon oxide surface of the substrate. However at this swelling maximum, a gradient in the pore size is observed at both interfaces. These swelling gradients at interfaces appear to be responsible for the anomalous maximum in thin films. As the film thickness increases beyond 350 nm, there is a decrease in the maximum swelling at the free interface.



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