A quantitative comparison between spontaneous dewetting and particle nucleation for thin (thickness = 17nm) polystyrene (PS) films on nonwettable silicon (Si) surfaces is presented both experimentally and theoretically. Performing experiments in a class 100 clean room, we found that ∼ 23% of the observed dry patches formed because of dust particles, while the majority of the holes formed via the well known spontaneous dewetting process. The result was verified qualitatively by diffusion theory, which, however, predicted a diminished role for the airborne particles, leading to the conclusion that pre-existing particles on the Si surfaces and/or the polymer solutions contribute substantially to the dewetting process. The driving force of particle motion into the polymer film is examined by placing alumi num oxide (Al 2O 3) particles on PS films. Finally, the effect of particle geometry is studied by placing gold (Au) disks on the free surface of PS films. An optically continuous PS film is found to be present around the periphery of the disk particles, even after the completion of the dewetting process in the rest of the sample. An attempt to explain dewetting inhibition at the vicinity of the micro-disks, on the basis of molecular interactions developed in the system Au/PS/Si, is finally presented.
- Atomic force microscopy (AFM)
- Particle nucleation