Fabrication of Polymer and Nanocomposite Microstructures and Microactuators by Capillary Infiltration and Replica Molding.
AbstractAddition of micro- and/or nanoscale textures to surfaces can enable engineering of a wide range of properties. Passive surfaces (using fixed microstructures) can manipulate cell adhesion, liquid drag, and thermal and electrical contact resistance. Active surfaces (using shape-changing microstructures) can enable modulation of liquid wetting, adhesion, and optical properties. Nevertheless, it remains a challenge to fabricate the mechanically and environmentally robust microstructures and microactuators in large arrays. This thesis presents new fabrication methods for microstructured polymer and nanocomposite surfaces. Two approaches are pursued: capillary driven infiltration of fabricated carbon nanotube (CNT) microstructures and replica molding (REM) of master templates in liquid crystal networks (LCNs). First, it is demonstrated that CNT-polymer microstructures can function as robust large-area master molds. The fabricated microstructures include pins, tubes, re-entrant microwells, bent pillars, and high-aspect-ratio honeycombs (thickness of 400nm, aspect ratio 50:1). All are used as master structures for replica molding. A 25-fold replication sequence is shown with no physical degradation of the master or the replicas. Further, the increased stiffness and toughness of CNT-SU-8 microstructures is quantified. Second, active surfaces were created by capillary infiltration of paraffin into CNT forests. Large stroke sheet actuators, exhibiting up to 20% thermal strain at 175°C are shown. Third, thermally and optically active LCN microstructure replicas were created. Their generated strains were measured to be 6% and 0.25%, respectively. In situ monitoring of the LCN phase and order was also performed. Although having low strains, optically active microstructures are attractive for future work because they can be actuated individually and remotely. These scalable methods of fabricating microstructured surfaces, both with robust mechanical properties and active geometries, indicate promise for enhancement of liquid wetting, adhesion, optical properties, and thermal conductivity of surfaces and interfaces. However, further increases in the thermally and optically generated strains are needed to make useful active surfaces. This could be accomplished by either material reformulation, improvements in material processing, or strain amplification via design of microstructure geometry.
CNT-polymer CompositeLiquid Crystal NetworkMicroactuatorActive Surfaces
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