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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2014 May 14;6(9):6579-88. doi: 10.1021/am500163s. Epub 2014 Apr 15.

Thermally tailored gradient topography surface on elastomeric thin films.

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  • 1Instability and Soft Patterning Laboratory, Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur 721302, India.


We report a simple method for creating a nanopatterned surface with continuous variation in feature height on an elastomeric thin film. The technique is based on imprinting the surface of a film of thermo-curable elastomer (Sylgard 184), which has continuous variation in cross-linking density introduced by means of differential heating. This results in variation of viscoelasticity across the length of the surface and the film exhibits differential partial relaxation after imprinting with a flexible stamp and subjecting it to an externally applied stress for a transient duration. An intrinsic perfect negative replica of the stamp pattern is initially created over the entire film surface as long as the external force remains active. After the external force is withdrawn, there is partial relaxation of the applied stresses, which is manifested as reduction in amplitude of the imprinted features. Due to the spatial viscoelasticity gradient, the extent of stress relaxation induced feature height reduction varies across the length of the film (L), resulting in a surface with a gradient topography with progressively varying feature heights (hF). The steepness of the gradient can be controlled by varying the temperature gradient as well as the duration of precuring of the film prior to imprinting. The method has also been utilized for fabricating wettability gradient surfaces using a high aspect ratio biomimetic stamp. The use of a flexible stamp allows the technique to be extended for creating a gradient topography on nonplanar surfaces as well. We also show that the gradient surfaces with regular structures can be used in combinatorial studies related to pattern directed dewetting.

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