Spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE) and quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) measurements are two critical characterization techniques routinely employed for hydration studies of polymer thin films. Water uptake by thin polymer films is an important area of study to investigate antifouling surfaces, to probe the swelling of thin water-containing ionomer films, and to conduct fundamental studies of polymer brush hydration and swelling. SiO2-coated QCM crystals, employed as substrates in many of these hydration studies, show porosity in the thin electron-beam (e-beam) evaporated SiO2 layer. The water sorption into this porous SiO2 layer requires correction of the optical and mass characterization of the hydrated polymer due to changes in the SiO2 layer as it sorbs water. This correction is especially important when experiments on SiO2-coated QCM crystals are compared to measurements on Si wafers with dense native SiO2 layers. Water adsorption filling void space during hydration in ∼200-260 nm thick SiO2 layers deposited on a QCM crystal resulted in increased refractive index of the layer during water uptake experiments. The increased refractive index led to artificially higher polymer swelling in the optical modeling of the hydration experiments. The SiO2-coated QCM crystals showed between 6 and 8% void as measured by QCM and SE, accounting for 60%-85% of the measured polymer swelling in the low humidity regime (<20% RH) and 25%-40% of the polymer swelling in the high humidity regime (>70% RH) from optical modeling for 105 and 47 nm thick sulfonated polymer films. Correcting the refractive index of the SiO2 layer for its water content resulted in polymer swelling that successfully resembled swelling measured on a silicon wafer with nonporous native oxide.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Surfaces and Interfaces