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Tuning relaxation dynamics and mechanical properties of polymer films of identical thickness

Marwa Kchaou, Pierre Alcouffe, Sivasurender Chandran, Philippe Cassagnau, Günter Reiter, and Samer Al Akhrass. Phys. Rev. E, accepted

Using dewetting as a characterization tool, we demonstrate that physical properties of thin polymer films can be regulated and tuned by employing variable processing conditions. For different molecular weights, the variable behavior of polystyrene films of identical thickness, prepared along systematically altered pathways, became predictable through a single parameter P, defined as the ratio of time required over time available for the equilibration of polymers. In particular, preparation-induced residual stresses, the corresponding relaxation times as well as the rupture probability of such films (of identical thickness) varied by orders of magnitude following scaling relations with P. Our experimental findings suggest that we can predictably enhance properties and hence maximize the performance of thin polymer films via appropriately chosen processing conditions.

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