Formation of a Crack-Free, Hybrid Skin Layer with Tunable Surface Topography and Improved Gas Permeation Selectivity on Elastomers Using Gel–Liquid Infiltration Polymerization


Surface modifications of elastomers and gels are crucial for emerging applications such as soft robotics and flexible electronics, in large part because they provide a platform to control wettability, adhesion, and permeability. Current surface modification methods via ultraviolet-ozone (UVO) and/or O2 plasma, atomic layer deposition (ALD), plasmas deposition, and chemical treatment impart a dense polymer or inorganic layer on the surface that is brittle and easy to fracture at low strain levels. This paper presents a new method, based on gel–liquid infiltration polymerization, to form hybrid skin layers atop elastomers. The method is unique in that it allows for control of the skin layer topography, with tunable feature sizes and aspect ratios as high as 1.8 without fracture. Unlike previous techniques, the skin layer formed here dramatically improves the barrier properties of the elastomer, while preserving skin layer flexibility. Moreover, the method is versatile and likely applicable to most interfacial polymerization systems and network polymers on flat and patterned surfaces.

In ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces