Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation Monitoring Applications in Polymer Thin Films Analysis
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Natural and synthetic polymers are highly related to people's daily life in every perspective and determine everyone's life quality. This study investigated the interactions between polymer thin films and other molecules, specifically natural polymer films with other components in plant and fungal cell walls, crosslinked thermoplastic films with solvent molecules, as well as commodity thermoplastic films with air and moisture during aging by a powerful surface analysis instrument, a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D). The assembly and interactions of glucan and chitin are crucial for understanding the fungal infection mechanism. Adsorption of mixed-linkage glucan (MLG) onto regenerated chitin (RChitin) and cellulose (RC) surfaces were investigated by QCM-D and atomic force microscopy (AFM). MLG was irreversibly adsorbed onto both surfaces and formed soft hydrogel-like layers with viscoelastic properties. This work established a QCM-D method to mimic the assembly of natural polymers in fungal cell walls and provided insight into the interactions of these polymers with chitin and cellulose. Poly(ether imide) (PEI) has poor solvent resistance towards solvents including chloroform, dimethylformamide (DMF), dichloromethane (DCM), and N-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP). Exposure to these solvents severely affects the thermal and mechanical performances of PEI. Therefore, crosslinked PEI (X-PEI) films was prepared from azide-terminated PEI (N₃-PEI-N₃) via a thermal crosslinking reaction. X-PEIs maintain outstanding solvent resistance towards common solvents by swelling ratio tests using QCM-D. Meanwhile, the thermal and mechanical properties of X-PEI were enhanced compared to the original PEI. Photo-oxidation is one of the dominant degradation mechanisms affecting the lifespan of polymers. The effect of photooxidative aging on the physiochemical properties of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) films were investigated using QCM-D, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and tensile stress-strain tests. The crystallinity, mechanical properties, and weight loss were correlated to understand the aging behavior. Materials after aging showed higher tensile stress and modulus, with reduced mass and elongation properties. Particularly, the aging-induced damage of polymer chain integrity was first determined by QCM-D through the evolution of mass loss during aging, providing supports to the changes of mechanical properties under aging.
General Audience Abstract
Natural polymers and thermoplastics are two major materials that are highly related to modern life. The interactions of these polymers with other molecules are important research topics for people to understand and predict the material properties. This dissertation studied the following three topics using a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D): 1) interactions between plant natural polymer films and polymers in fungal cell wall; 2) solvent resistance of crosslinked thermoplastic films; and 3) physiochemical changes during photo-oxidation degradation of thermoplastic films. Pathogenic fungal cells can attack beneficial plant cell hosts by adhering themselves onto the plant cells, followed by penetration and enzymatic degradation of the multilayered plant cell walls until the host is digested. Therefore, the interaction between the components in fungal and plant cell walls is critical to understand pathogenic fungal cell invasion. Adsorption of mixed-linkage glucan (MLG) onto regenerated chitin (RChitin) and cellulose (RC) surfaces was monitored by QCM-D and atomic force microscopy (AFM). An irreversible binding interaction of MLG with chitin and cellulose films and a soft hydrogel-like layer on both surfaces were observed in our work. Poly(ether imide) (PEI) is a high-performance polymer with excellent thermal and mechanical properties. However, the good solubilities in common organic solvents that facilitate reasonable processibility limits its applications in solvent-related domains. Several methods of PEI crosslinking were developed in the literature to improve solvent resistance. This study prepared crosslinked PEI (X-PEI) films from azide-terminated PEI (N₃-PEI-N₃) via a simple thermal crosslinking reaction. X-PEI had better resistance to organic solvents from QCM-D measurements and maintained good thermal and mechanical performances. Photo-oxidation from air and sunlight slowly degrades plastics, shortens their service time, and leads to environmental pollution. This work bridged the gap between molecular integrity and its effect on the overall macroscopic mechanical changes through accurate measurement of the mass loss during degradation using a QCM-D. This work is essential in ensuring polymer design and active environmental protection.
- Doctoral Dissertations