Topographical and chemical characterization of polymer surfaces modified by physical and chemical processes



Nanoscale changes to the surface of polymeric materials enables changes in materials' adhesion, wettability, printability, chemical functionality, and bioactivity, while maintaining desirable bulk properties. Polymer surface modification is therefore used in applications such as antimicrobial or non-fouling materials, biosensors, and active packaging. The range of available modification and analytical techniques used across laboratories prevents accurate comparison of techniques in terms of their effects on surface chemistry and topography. It was therefore our goal to evaluate the effects of four surface modification techniques (chromic acid, piranha solution, ultraviolet irradiation, and oxygen plasma) on polyethylene films. Changes in surface chemistry and topography were quantified using attenuated total reflectance (ATR) Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy (AFM), contact angle measurement, and direct measurement of available surface carboxylic acids. Roughness increased in the order: piranha (57.7 nm); oxygen plasma (76.3 nm); UV irradiation (76.4 nm); chromic acid (120 nm). Hydrophobicity decreased in the order: piranha (77.20), chromic acid (73.50), oxygen plasma (61.70), UV irradiation (58.70). Functionalization (by IR absorbance intensity between 1680–1780 cm−1) increased in the order: oxygen plasma (0.06), piranha (0.09), chromic acid (0.34), UV irradiation (0.50). By analyzing these methods using consistent analytical techniques, side-by-side comparisons have been accurately made. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2011