Mechanisms for self-assembling topography formation in low-temperature vacuum deposition of inorganic coatings on polymer surfaces

Publication from Materials

Lackner J.M., Waldhauser W., Alamanou A., Teichert C., Schmied F., Major L., Major B.

Bull. Polish Academy of Sciences: Technical Sciences, pp. 281-294, 2010


Functionalization of surfaces is an important task for nanotechnology to add specially designed physico-chemical properties to materials. Besides chemical modification of surfaces, physical adaptations gain increasing interest. Thus, understanding the influences of film deposition on surface topography formation is the basis for future developments. For physical or chemical vapour deposited (PVD, CVD) films, structure zone models were developed, clearly showing the influences of temperature and vapour energy and, thus, surface and bulk diffusion on film structures based on four different structure zones. Generally, similar zones are also found in PVD coatings on polymeric substrates; However, due to restrictions in coating temperatures due to the thermal resistance of most polymers, the coating temperature is restricted to mostly 50°C, excluding thermal activation of at least surface diffusion of inorganic materials (metals and their nitrides, oxides, carbides, etc.) and resulting in columnar growth with dome-shaped column tops. Additionally, the high difference in mechanical properties between “stiff” inorganic coatings and “flexible” polymers implicates stress-induced growth phenomena, resulting in wrinkling, cracking and finally the formation of a superseding structure, depending on substrate and film materials and the vapour energy of the deposition method.

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