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Swelling-Induced Delamination Causes Folding of Surface-Tethered Polymer Gels

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posted on 2012-01-25, 00:00 authored by Sachin S. Velankar, Victoria Lai, Richard A. Vaia
When a polymer film that is weakly attached to a rigid substrate is exposed to solvent, swelling-induced compressive stress nucleates buckle delamination of the film from the substrate. Surprisingly, the buckles do not have a sinusoidal profile, instead, the film near the delamination buckles slides toward the buckles causing growth of sharp folds of high aspect ratio. These folds do not result from a wrinkle-to-fold transition; instead, the film goes directly from a flat state to a folded state. The folds persist even after the solvent evaporates. We propose that patterned delamination and folding may be exploited to realize high-aspect ratio topological features on surfaces through control of a set of boundary constraints arising from the interrelation of film-surface adhesion, film thickness and degree of swellabilty.

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