Small-scale polymer structures enabled by thiol-ene copolymer systems
Kasprzak, Scott Edward
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The research described herein is aimed at exploring the thermo-mechanical properties of thiol-ene polymers in bulk form, investigating the ability of thiol-ene polymers to behave desirably as photolithographic media, and providing the first characterization of the mechanical properties of two-photon stereolithography-produced polymer structures. The thiol-ene polymerization reaction itself is well-characterized and described in the literature, but the thermomechanical properties of thiol-ene and thiol-ene/acrylate polymers still require more rigorous study. Understanding the behavior of thiol-ene networks is a crucial step towards their expanded use in bulk form, and particularly in specialized applications such as shape memory devices. Additionally, the thiol-ene polymerization reaction mechanism exhibits unique properties which make these polymers well suited to photolithography, overcoming the typical dichotomy of current materials which either exhibit excellent photolithographic behavior or have controllable properties. Finally, before two-photon stereolithography can create mechanisms and devices which can serve any mechanically functional role, the mechanical properties of the polymers they produce must be quantitatively characterized, which is complicated by the extremely small scale at which these structures are produced. As such, mechanical characterization to date has been strictly qualitative. Fourier transfer infrared spectroscopy revealed functional group conversion information and sol-fraction testing revealed the presence of unconverted monomer and impurities, while dynamic mechanical analysis and tensile testing revealed the thermomechanical responses of the systems. Nanoindentation was employed to characterize the mechanical properties of polymers produced by two-photon stereolithography. Optical and electron microscopy were exploited to provide quantitative and qualitative evaluations of thiol-ene/acrylate performance in small-scale polymerization regimes. The broad objective of the research was to explore thiol-ene polymer behavior both in bulk and at the small scale in an effort to supplement the material library currently used in these fields and to expand the design envelope available to researchers. The significance of the research is the advancement of a more complete and fundamental understanding of thiol-ene polymerization from kinetics to final properties, the quantitative establishment of the mechanical properties of materials created with two-photon stereolithography, and the comprehensive characterization of a supplementary class of photopatternable polymers with greater property tunability than is possible with currently used materials.