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Temperature- and thickness-dependent elastic moduli of polymer thin films

Zhimin Ao* and Sean Li

Author Affiliations

School of Materials Science and Engineering, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2011, 6:243  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-6-243

Published: 22 March 2011


The mechanical properties of polymer ultrathin films are usually different from those of their counterparts in bulk. Understanding the effect of thickness on the mechanical properties of these films is crucial for their applications. However, it is a great challenge to measure their elastic modulus experimentally with in situ heating. In this study, a thermodynamic model for temperature- (T) and thickness (h)-dependent elastic moduli of polymer thin films Ef(T,h) is developed with verification by the reported experimental data on polystyrene (PS) thin films. For the PS thin films on a passivated substrate, Ef(T,h) decreases with the decreasing film thickness, when h is less than 60 nm at ambient temperature. However, the onset thickness (h*), at which thickness Ef(T,h) deviates from the bulk value, can be modulated by T. h* becomes larger at higher T because of the depression of the quenching depth, which determines the thickness of the surface layer δ.