Improved polymer thin-film wetting behavior through nanoparticle segregation to interfaces.
We report a systematic study of improved wetting behavior for thin polymer films containing nanoparticles, as a function of nanoparticle size and concentration, the energy of the substrate and the dielectric properties of the nanoparticles. An enthalpy matched system consisting of polystyrene nanoparticles in linear polystyrene is used to show that nanoparticles are uniformly distributed in the film after spin coating and drying. However, on annealing the film above its bulk glass transition temperature these nanoparticles segregate strongly to the solid substrate. We find that for a wide range of film thicknesses and nanoparticle sizes, a substrate coverage of nanoparticles of approximately a monolayer is required for dewetting inhibition. Cadmium selenide quantum dots also inhibit dewetting of polystyrene thin films, again when a monolayer is present. Moreover, TEM microscopy images indicate that CdSe quantum dots segregate primarily to the air interface. Theoretical interpretation of these phenomena suggests that gain of linear chain configurational entropy promotes segregation of nanoparticles to the solid substrate, as occurs for polystyrene nanoparticles; however, for CdSe nanoparticles this is offset by surface energy or enthalpic terms which promote segregation of the nanoparticles to the air interface.