• Thin Films;
  • Polymeric Materials;
  • Patterning;
  • Electric-Field Lithography;
  • Hierarchical Microstructures


Electric-field-induced hierarchical, multiscale patterning of incompletely cross-linked viscoelastic polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) films is achieved by spatiotemporal variation of the field, which produces a multiplicity of complex mesopatterns from the same electrode. Experiments and simulations are employed to uncover pathways of hierarchical pattern formation. Spatial modulation of the field is introduced by employing different types of simply patterned electrodes: stripes, elevated concentric circular rings, and box-patterned ridges. Multiscale complex structures consisting of increasingly finer primary, secondary, and tertiary hierarchical structures are fabricated by progressively ramping up the electric field while maintaining the integrity of the already formed structures. The latter is achieved by partially cross-linking the films before patterning, which engenders optimal viscosity to prevent a rapid ripening and coalescence of earlier formed patterns. These multiscale structures can be controlled by the geometry and periodicity of patterned electrodes, the strength of the electric field, and its programmable temporal variation. The PDMS patterns are made permanent by complete cross-linking after a desired multiscale structure is obtained.