Manipulation of the elastic modulus of polymers at the nanoscale: Influence of UV-ozone cross-linking and plasticizer

Jessica M. Torres, Christopher M. Stafford, Bryan D. Vogt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (SciVal)


The mechanical stability of polymeric nanostructures is critical to the processing, assembly, and performance of numerous existing and emerging technologies. A key predictor of mechanical stability is the elastic modulus. However, a significant reduction in modulus has been reported for thin films and nanostructures when the thickness or size of the polymer material decreases below a critical length scale. Routes to mitigate or even eliminate this reduction in modulus, and thus enhancing the mechanically stability of polymeric nanostructures, would be extremely valuable. Here, two routes to modulate the mechanical properties of polymers at the nanoscale are described. Exposure to ultraviolet light and ozone (UVO) cross-links the near surface region of high molecular mass PS films, rendering the elastic modulus independent of thickness. However, UVO cannot eliminate the decrease in modulus of low molecular mass PS or PMMA due to limited reaction depth and photodegradation, respectively. Alternatively, the thickness dependence of the elastic modulus of both PS and PMMA can be eliminated by addition of dioctyl phthalate (DOP) at 5% by mass. Furthermore, an increase in modulus is observed for films with thicknesses less than 30 nm with 5% DOP by mass in comparison to neat PS. Although DOP acts as a plasticizer for both PS and PMMA in the bulk, evidence indicates that DOP acts as an antiplasticizer at the nanoscale. By maintaining or even increasing the elastic modulus of polymers at the nanoscale, these methods could lead to improved stability of polymeric nanostructures and devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5357-5365
Number of pages9
JournalACS nano
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 28 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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