Nanoscale Mechanics of Ultrathin Polymer Films Using Molecular Dynamics

Brooklyn Noble, University of Utah

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The surface-to-volume ratio increases with decreasing length scale, making friction, wear and lubrication of increased concern at the nanoscale. Thus, understanding the physical behavior of ultrathin polymer liquid films on the nanoscale is of critical importance to the myriad engineering applications and devices that involve these extreme environments. Examples of such systems include hard disk drives, micro- and nano-electromechanical systems, microfluidic arrays, antibiofouling/fouling-release coatings and nanoimprint lithography. These systems are ubiquitous in consumer electronics, medical devices and microfabrication technologies, among many other uses. However, although crucial to the design and application of such ultrathin polymer films, the physical mechanisms that govern liquid polymer spreading on the molecular scale are not understood well. The objective of this research is to characterize the physical mechanisms that govern liquid polymer spreading on the nanoscale as a function of environmental and design parameters.

This research attempts to address fundamental science questions and uses a molecular dynamics model to obtain an explanation of observed nanoscale phenomena while comparing the results with experimental data. This research aims to address the challenges that currently limit the effectiveness of ultrathin polymer liquid films used in a variety of engineering applications. However, the impact of the proposed research is not limited to existing devices but could also spur progress in other research fields such as miniaturization of electronic components and the implementation of previously unattainable technologies such as nanoscale motors, biomedical nanodevices and surfaces with dynamically tunable wettability.

Abstract Author(s): Brooklyn Noble