Marangoni Instability Driven Surface Relief Grating in an Azobenzene-Containing Polymer Film

by Kim, CB; Wistrom, JC; Ha, H; Zhou, SX; Katsumata, R; Jones, AR; Janes, DW; Miller, KM; Ellison, CM

Macromolecules, SEP 27 2016, Volume: 49, Issue: 18, Pages: 7069-7076, DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.6b01848

The Marangoni effect describes fluid flow near an interface in response to a surface tension gradient. Here, we demonstrate that the Marangoni effect is the underlying mechanism for flow driven feature formation in an azobenzene-containing polymer film; features formed in azobenzene-containing polymers are often referred to as surface relief gratings or SRGs. An amorphous poly(4-(acryloyloxyhexyloxy)-4′-pentylazobenzene) was synthesized and studied as a model polymer. To isolate the surface tension driven flow from the surface tension pattern inscription step, the surface tension gradient was preprogrammed via photoisomerization of azobenzene in a glassy polymer film without forming topographical features. Subsequently, the latent image was developed in the absence of light by annealing above the glass transition temperature where the polymer is a liquid. The polymer flow direction was controlled with precision by inducing different surface tension changes in the exposed regions, in accordance with expectation based on the Marangoni effect. Finally, the height of the formed features decreased upon extensive thermal annealing due to capillary leveling with two distinct rates. A scaling analysis revealed that those rates originated from dissimilar capillary velocities associated with different azobenzene isomers.

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