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Comparison of Plasma Polymerization under Collisional and Collision-Less Pressure Regimes

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journal contribution
posted on 10.12.2015, 00:00 by Solmaz Saboohi, Marek Jasieniak, Bryan R. Coad, Hans J. Griesser, Robert D. Short, Andrew Michelmore
While plasma polymerization is used extensively to fabricate functionalized surfaces, the processes leading to plasma polymer growth are not yet completely understood. Thus, reproducing processes in different reactors has remained problematic, which hinders industrial uptake and research progress. Here we examine the crucial role pressure plays in the physical and chemical processes in the plasma phase, in interactions at surfaces in contact with the plasma phase, and how this affects the chemistry of the resulting plasma polymer films using ethanol as the gas precursor. Visual inspection of the plasma reveals a change from intense homogeneous plasma at low pressure to lower intensity bulk plasma at high pressure, but with increased intensity near the walls of the chamber. It is demonstrated that this occurs at the transition from a collision-less to a collisional plasma sheath, which in turn increases ion and energy flux to surfaces at constant RF power. Surface analysis of the resulting plasma polymer films show that increasing the pressure results in increased incorporation of oxygen and lower cross-linking, parameters which are critical to film performance. These results and insights help to explain the considerable differences in plasma polymer properties observed by different research groups using nominally similar processes.