Thermomechanical Manufacturing of Polymer Microstructures and Nanostructures
Rowland, Harry Dwight
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Molding is a simple manufacturing process whereby fluid fills a master tool and then solidifies in the shape of the tool cavity. The precise nature of material flow during molding has long allowed fabrication of plastic components with sizes 1 mm 1 m. Polymer molding with precise critical dimension control could enable scalable, inexpensive production of micro- and nanostructures for functional or lithographic use. This dissertation reports experiments and simulations on molding of polymer micro- and nanostructures at length scales 1 nm 1 mm. The research investigates two main areas: 1) mass transport during micromolding and 2) polymer mechanical properties during nanomolding at length scales 100 nm. Measurements and simulations of molding features of size 100 nm 1 mm show local mold geometry modulates location and rate of polymer shear and determines fill time. Dimensionless ratios of mold geometry, polymer thickness, and bulk material and process properties can predict flow by viscous or capillary forces, shape of polymer deformation, and mold fill time. Measurements and simulations of molding at length scales 100 nm show the importance of nanoscale physical processes distinct from bulk during mechanical processing. Continuum simulations of atomic force microscope nanoindentation accurately model sub-continuum polymer mechanical response but highlight the need for nanoscale material property measurements to accurately model deformation shape. The development of temperature-controlled nanoindentation enables characterization of nanoscale material properties. Nanoscale uniaxial compression and squeeze flow measurements of glassy and viscoelastic polymer show film thickness determines polymer entanglement with cooperative polymer motions distinct from those observed in bulk. This research allows predictive design of molding processes and highlights the importance of nanoscale mechanical properties that could aid understanding of polymer physics.