Characterization of polymer surfaces using micro- and nano-thermal analysis.

Nicolaas-Alexander Gotzen, Guy Van Assche, Bruno Van Mele

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper


Recent developments in the miniaturization of thermal analysis techniques -by combination of scanning probe microscopy with thermal probes- offers interesting opportunities for the spatially resolved thermal analysis of polymer surfaces.
Micro-thermal analysis (µTA) and nano-thermal analysis (nano-TA) use a thermal probe -wollaston and silicon respectively- both as heating element and detector. Topographic and thermal properties (e.g. heat conductivity) of the surface can thus be displayed. Local thermal analysis measurements (LTA) can be performed on selected spots by following the response of the probe during a controlled fast heating or cooling (e.g. 15°C/s). The lateral resolution of the LTA's is in the order of microns for the µTA whereas in the case of the nano-TA sub 100 nm resolution can be attained. The potential of both techniques is illustrated in three case studies: on polymer blends both in bulk as in thin coatings and on multi-layered packaging material.

Multilayered biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) films, both heat sealable and non-heat sealable, are extensively used in the packaging industry. The simplest multilayer films correspond to three-layer structures: one thick core layer of polypropylene homopolymer sandwiched between two thin (usually close to 1 µm) skin layers. Using nano-TA, the film structure and transition temperatures inside the different layers were measured. The effect of annealing on the properties of the skin layer was also investigated.
Thin polymer blend coatings are advantageous toward the development of smart surfaces, whose properties change due to thermal or chemical stimuli. The thermo-responsive polymer blend consisting of the poly(vinyl methyl ether) and poly(styrene) is studied in 100 nm films. The influence of the surface on the phase separation behaviour of the blend is illustrated using nano-TA and hotstage AFM.
For the semi-crystalline isotactic and syndiotactic poly(propylene) blend system the visualisation of the phase-separated morphology by traditional methods (OM, TEM, ...) is difficult by lack of contrast. Using nano-TA the difference in melting point for both components is exploited to obtain phase contrast.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of ECASIA’07: 12th European Conference on Applications of Surface and Interface Analysis, September 9-14 (2007), Brussels, Belgium
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007
EventFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 21 Sep 200925 Sep 2009


ConferenceFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet


  • nano-TA
  • phase separation
  • polymer blend


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