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ACS Nano. 2010 Jul 27;4(7):3709-24. doi: 10.1021/nn901912d.

Stability and dewetting of metal nanoparticle filled thin polymer films: control of instability length scale and dynamics.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, Pin 721 302, West Bengal, India.


We investigate the influence of gold nanoparticle addition on the stability, dewetting, and pattern formation in ultrathin polymer-nanoparticle (NP) composite films by examining the length and time scales of instability, morphology, and dynamics of dewetting. For these 10-50 nm thick (h) polystyrene (PS) thin films containing uncapped gold nanoparticles (diameter approximately 3-4 nm), transitions from complete dewetting to arrested dewetting to absolute stability were observed depending on the concentration of the particles. Experiments show the existence of three distinct stability regimes: regime 1, complete dewetting leading to droplet formation for nanoparticle concentration of 2% (w/w) or below; regime 2, partial dewetting leading to formation of arrested holes for NP concentrations in the range of 3-6%; and regime 3, complete inhibition of dewetting for NP concentrations of 7% and above. Major results are (a) length scale of instability, where lambdaH approximately hn remains unchanged with NP concentration in regime 1 (n approximately 2) but increases in regime 2 with a change in the scaling relation (n approximately 3-3.5); (b) dynamics of instability and dewetting becomes progressively sluggish with an increase in the NP concentration; (c) there are distinct regimes of dewetting velocity at low NP concentrations; (d) force modulation AFM, as well as micro-Raman analysis, shows phase separation and aggregation of the gold nanoparticles within each dewetted polymer droplet leading to the formation of a metal core-polymer shell morphology. The polymer shell could be removed by washing in a selective solvent, thus exposing an array of bare gold nanoparticle aggregates.

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