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Hierarchical nanoparticle topography in amphiphilic copolymer films controlled by thermodynamics and dynamics.

Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids (2015-02-18)
M A Caporizzo, R M Ezzibdeh, R J Composto
ABSTRACT

This study systematically investigates how polymer composition changes nanoparticle (NP) grafting and diffusion in solvated random copolymer thin films. By thermal annealing from 135 to 200 °C, thin films with a range of hydrophobicity are generated by varying acrylic acid content from 2% (SAA2) to 29% (SAA29). Poly(styrene-random-tert butyl acrylate) films, 100 nm thick, that are partially converted to poly(styrene-random-acrylic acid), SAA, reversibly swell in ethanol solutions containing amine-functionalized SiO2 nanoparticles with a diameter of 45 nm. The thermodynamics and kinetics of NP grafting are directly controlled by the AA content in the SAA films. At low AA content, namely SAA4, NP attachment saturates at a monolayer, consistent with a low solubility of NPs in SAA4 due to a weakly negative χ parameter. When the AA content exceeds 4%, NPs sink into the film to form multilayers. These films exhibit hierarchical surface roughness with a RMS roughness greater than the NP size. Using a quartz crystal microbalance, NP incorporation in the film is found to saturate after a mass equivalence of about 3 close-packed layers of NPs have been incorporated within the SAA. The kinetics of NP grafting is observed to scale with AA content. The surface roughness is greatest at intermediate times (5-20 min) for SAA13 films, which also exhibit superhydrophobic wetting. Because clustering and aggregation of the NPs within SAA29 films reduce film transparency, SAA13 films provide both maximum hydrophobicity and transparency. The method in this study is widely applicable because it can be applied to many substrate types, can cover large areas, and retains the amine functionality of the particles which allows for subsequent chemical modification.

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