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Langmuir. 2005 Jun 21;21(13):5817-24.

Dewetting induced by complete versus nonretarded van der Waals forces.

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Institute of Nano Science and Technology and Department of Physics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


Spontaneous rupture of some polymer films upon heating is commonplace. The very criterion for this instability is the system free energy, G(L), possessing a negative curvature. In films that are apolar with h < or = 100 nm van der Waals (vdW) interactions usually constitute a major contribution to G(L) for which the approximate form G(L) = -A/12piL(2) (where A is the Hamaker constant), ignoring retardation, has been widely used. In this work, we investigate the limits to this approximation by calculating the complete vdW interactions for popular polymer film systems in dewetting experiments including air-polystyrene-SiO2-Si, air-polystyrene-poly(methyl methacrylate)-Si, and air-poly(methyl methacrylate)-polystyrene-Si based on the theory of Dzyaloshinskii, Lifshitz, and Pitaevskii (DLP). We found that retardation effects could produce significant modifications to G(L) even when the thickness of the polymer and/or the interlayer is only 1-2 nm, contrary to conventional presumption.

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