Faculty Advisor

Terri A. Camesano

Faculty Advisor

David DiBiasio


"Polyelectrolyte multilayer (PEM) thin films prepared via the Layer-by-Layer (LbL) deposition technique are of special interest in this research. The purpose of this study is to replace current mechanical closure systems, based on hook-and-loop type fasteners (i.e. Velcro), with PEM thin film systems. The technique is simple, cheap, versatile and environmental friendly; as a consequence a variety of thin films can be easily fabricated. By proposing PEMs as non-mechanical and nanoscopic molecular closures, we aim to obtain hermetic sealing, good adhesive strength, and peel off ease. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) and colloidal probe techniques were used to characterize the morphology, roughness and adhesive properties of PEMs. AFM measurements were conducted in air, necessarily requiring careful control of ambient humidity. PEMs were formed by consecutive deposition of polyanions and polycations on a charged polyethylene terephthalate (PET) solid surface, the result of which was stable nanostructured films. By systemically varying the parameters of PEM build-up process: different combinations of polyelectrolytes, different numbers of bilayers (polyanion/polycation pairs), and miscellaneous types and concentrations of salts (NaCl, NaBr and NaF salts at 0.5 M and 1.0 M concentrations), the adhesion and morphology of PEMs were thoroughly investigated. The PEM thin films specifically investigated include poly(ethyleneimine) (PEI), poly(styrene sulfonate) (PSS), poly(allylamine hydrochloride) (PAH), poly(acrylic acid) (PAA), and poly(diallydimethylammonium chloride) (PDADMAC). Silica colloidal probes were utilized in the investigation, some of which were functionalized with COOH and/or coated with PEI-PSS. Silica colloidal probes were used in order to quantify interaction forces on the PEMs. A functionalized silica colloidal probe (a probe with COOH surface chemistry) and a silica colloidal probe coated with PEI-PSS were used to simulate PEM-PEM interactions. The results suggest that adhesion in the PEMs depend on the number of layers, the salt concentration and the salt type used during the build-up process, the environmental conditions where the adhesion force measurements were made, and the choice of probe. "


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Adhesive Strength, Colloidal Probe Technique, Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), Polyelectrolyte Multilayers (PEMs)