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Corona-Treated Polyethylene Films Are Macroscopic Charge Bilayers

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journal contribution
posted on 22.01.2013, 00:00 authored by Leandra P. Santos, Juliana S. Bernardes, Fernando Galembeck
Top and bottom surfaces of polyethylene (PE) films exposed to corona discharge display large and opposite electrostatic potentials, forming an electric bilayer in agreement with recent and unexpected findings from Zhiqiang et al. Water wetting, chemical composition and roughness of the two surfaces are different. Surprisingly, the bottom surface, opposite to the corona electrode is charged but it is not oxidized, neither is it wetted with water. Moreover, its morphology is unaltered by charging, while the hydrophilic top surface is much rougher with protruding islands that are the result of oxidation followed by phase separation and polymer–polymer dewetting. Common liquids extract the oxidized, hydrophilic material formed at the upper surface, a result that explains the well-known sensitivity of adhesive joints made using corona-treated thermoplastics to liquids, especially water. These results show that poling the surface closer to the corona electrode triggers another but different charge build-up process at the opposite surface. The outcome is another poled PE surface showing high potential but with unchanged chemical composition, morphology and wetting behavior as the pristine surface, thus opening new possibilities for surface engineering.