Specialized Prototyping Equipment

One- and Two-Axis Flow Coater
This customized instrument is used for both uniform and gradient coating of polymer film deposition on a variety of substrates measuring up to 6” x 6”. With the help of a programmable accelerating stage, thickness gradient of above one order of magnitude (e.g. 10-100 nm) can be obtained on a single substrate. The stage can be programmed to generate uniform thickness, as well as step and continuous thickness gradient films. Two varieties of the flow coaters include single and double axis programmable stages.

Programmable Static Zone Thermal Oven
Several digital, static thermal ovens for curing and annealing various materials/films feature a programmable PID controller. Samples can be annealed in a vacuum or inert gas environment.

UV Etcher
UV sensitive polymers (e.g PMMA / monomers / materials) can be etched out or cross-linked with this setup. Sample chamber can be purged with inert gas or vacuum.

Solvent Mixture Vapor Annealing with Dual Mass Flow Controllers
Homopolymer, block copolymer or polymer blend films can be annealed in specific solvent vapor environments controlled by gas mass flow controllers in a chamber, with or without heating stage and under applied magnetic field.

IR Camera
The IR imaging camera is a useful tool to determine exact temperature of the sample annealed using thermal zone annealing and gradient heating stage.

Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)
The characterization of the surface topography and phase contrast is done with the help of two high quality Atomic Force Microscopes(AFM): Nanoscope V and Dimension ICON with PeakForce. The latest Dimension ICON is equipped with a large-stage chuck with a 200mm (8-inch) diameter that can travel 6.06 in (X direction) by 7.283 in (Y direction). The microscopes can operate in three modes of data collection: Contact, TappingMode, and ICON uses Force Imaging: PeakForceTM QNMTM. The PeakForce mode allows High-Resolution Mapping of Modulus and Adhesion through direct force control with indigenous features stage. It keeps indentations small for higher resolution and non-destructive imaging. The samples can be characterized with detection in mod-ulus in widest operating range from soft gels (~1 MPa) to rigid polymers (>20 GPa). Other capabilities of our AFMs – they compile interleave scanning modes that allow measuring of: magnetic properties with Magnetic Force Microscopy, electrical properties with Electric Force Microscopy and Tunneling AFM (TUNA). The ICON AFMA for all scanning modes is equipped with fluid cell, heating and cooling stage (controlled environment, temperature range: heater: ambient to 250 degrees (Celcius); heater/cooler: -35 to 100 degrees (Celcius), and a perfusion cell.

Optical Microscope with X-Y-Z Automated Stage & Fluorescence and Polarization Attachments
Two Olympus optical microscopes for auto-focus and automated large area imaging are available with bright field, dark field, FITC, TRITC etc. One of the microscopes is inverted for biological samples.

Texture Analyzer
A versatile tool for measuring various mechanical properties of bulk and thin film materials. Single point analysis capability makes it indispensible for gradient combinatorial samples. Measurement capabilities include work of adhesion, elastic modulus under compression or tension, peak tack, peel strength and 90 degree peel test of various adhesives. Three- and four-point bending tests are also possible.

Optical Interferometer for Film Thickness and R.I. Measurement
Instrument is a useful tool for robust and ultra-fast measurement of thickness and optical constants of polymer films. Samples can be homopolymers, blends, block-copolymer, multilayer or composite film in the range of few nanometers to hundreds of microns. The light source covers UV and visible spectra.

Strain-Induced Elastic Buckling Instability for Mechanical Measurements (SIEBIMM)
Measuring mechanical properties of a thin film is a big challenge due to its low strength that prohibits use of conventional mechanical testers. At the same time, nanoindentation is difficult as it is model dependent and knowledge of indenter tip shape is needed. In this indigenously developed SIEBIMM technique, polymer thin films are coated on a mechanically robust elastomeric flexible substrate. Tensile and compression stress applied on the composite sample leads to a unique buckling pattern of the top layer film which is used to calculate its mechanical bending (Young’s modulus) properties.

UVO Wand for Surface Energy Gradient
Any UV-ozone (UVO) sensitive substrate/polymer coating/self assembled monolayer’s can be cured or oxidized in either a gradient or uniform manner using the aluminum encased UV wand with 1 mm slit opening in conjunction with an accelerating stage. The UVO exposure time and distance from substrate dictate the final surface energy/dose of the substrate. Substrates with surface energy gradients from 20-76 mJ/m2 can be produced with this instrument.

Syringe Pumps and Composition Gradient Mixers
With the programmable pumps and indigenous chaotic mixer assembly, composition gradient solutions or films of two or more polymer solutions and viscous polymer / monomer mixtures / additives can be prepared. A truly combinatorial sample can be prepared using this technique in conjunction with the flow coater, UV wand or gradient heating stage.

Thermal Zone Annealing Setup
Samples are annealed by passing them over heating and cooling zones. This indigenous method features a novel sharp heating zone that generates very sharp (>50 degrees [C] /mm) gradient zone. Samples can be annealed in vacuum or inert gas environment. It has been observed that directed morphologies can be obtained with crystalline polymers, block copolymers and polymer blend films with this setup that are inaccessible with other annealing methods.

Gradient Heating Stage with Chiller
This instrumented aluminum heating rod and active liquid cooling tubing at its two ends generates controlled continuous thermal gradients. Samples can be annealed under vacuum or an inert gas environment. A thermal gradient of about 60 degrees (Celcius) can be readily generated across the heating and cooling ends.