Polymer surface modification by atomic layer deposition

Tommi Kääriäinen
Abstract & Cover

Current industrial atomic layer deposition (ALD) processes are almost wholly confined to glass or silicon substrates. For many industrial applications, deposition on polymer substrates will be necessary. Current deposition processes are also typically carried out at temperatures which are too high for polymers. If deposition temperatures in ALD can be reduced to the level applicable for polymers, it will open new interesting areas and applications for polymeric materials. The properties of polymers can be improved for example by coatings with functional and protective properties. Although the ALD has shown its capability to operate at low temperatures suitable for polymer substrates, there are other issues related to process efficiency and characteristics of different polymers where new knowledge will assist in developing industrially conceivable ALD processes. Lower deposition temperature in ALD generally means longer process times to facilitate the self limiting film growth mode characteristic to ALD. To improve process efficiency more reactive precursors are introduced into the process. For example in ALD oxide processes these can be more reactive oxidizers, such as ozone and oxygen radicals, to substitute the more conventionally used water. Although replacing water in the low temperature ALD with ozone or plasma generated oxygen radicals will enable the process times to be shortened, they may have unwanted effects both on the film growth and structure, and in some cases can form detrimental process conditions for the polymer substrate. Plasma assistance is a very promising approach to improve the process efficiency. The actual design and placement of the plasma source will have an effect on film growth characteristics and film structure that may retard the process efficiency development. Due to the fact that the lifetime of the radicals is limited, it requires the placement of the plasma source near to the film growth region. Conversely this subjects the substrate to exposure by other plasma species and electromagnetic radiation which sets requirements for plasma conditions optimization. In this thesis ALD has been used to modify, activate and functionalize the polymer surfaces for further improvement of polymer performance subject to application. The issues in ALD on polymers, both in thermal and plasma-assisted ALD will be further discussed.

Source of Information
FinALD40 exhibition material, http://www.aldcoe.fi/events/finald40.pdf
Lappeenranta University of Technology, Faculty of Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Technology
(Lappeenranta, Finland)
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