Stability of polymer films as a 2D system

Y. J. Wang, C. H. Lam, X. Zhang, O. K.C. Tsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


According to classical theory of phase transition, fluctuations in systems with low dimensions are so violent that the phase boundary between unstable and metastable states would be smeared. In this experiment, we measure the growth of surface fluctuations on an unstable polymer film with a thickness, h0 = 5.1 nm, which is much less than the spinodal thickness, hsp(= 243 nm) thereby the film is in the very deep unstable region. We find the film to show rupturing behavior markedly different from that of an unstable film. Specifically, nucleation of holes - A characteristic rupturing feature of metastable films - is prominent, which is surprising for a film in the very deep unstable region even provision is given to thin films being two-dimensional and hence are susceptible to broadening of the phase boundary by fluctuations. Monte Carlo simulation shows that the nucleated holes can be caused by stochastic thermal fluctuations. Our result thus confirms the broadening of the phase boundary inthin films by fluctuations to be extremely large. As a consequence, the phase behavior of thin films cannot be predicted by the mean-field calculated phase boundary, which however has been the general practice so far.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-187
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Physical Journal: Special Topics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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