Wettability Alteration of a Thiolene-Based Polymer (NOA81): Surface Characterization and Fabrication Techniques
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Wettability plays a significant role in controlling multiphase flow in porous media for many industrial applications, including geologic carbon dioxide sequestration, enhanced oil recovery, and fuel cells. Microfluidics is a powerful tool to study the complexities of interfacial phenomena involved in multiphase flow in well-controlled geometries. Recently, the thiolene-based polymer called NOA81 emerged as an ideal material in the fabrication of microfluidic devices, since it combines the versatility of conventional soft photolithography with a wide range of achievable wettability conditions. Specifically, the wettability of NOA81 can be continuously tuned through exposure to UV-ozone. Despite its growing popularity, the exact physical and chemical mechanisms behind the wettability alteration have not been fully characterized. Here, we apply different characterization techniques, including contact angle measurements, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to investigate the impact of UV-ozone on the chemical and physical properties of NOA81 surfaces. We find that UV-ozone exposure increases the oxygen-containing polar functional groups, which enhances the surface energy and hydrophilicity of NOA81. Additionally, our AFM measurements show that spin-coated NOA81 surfaces have a roughness less than a nanometer, which is further reduced after UV-ozone exposure. Lastly, we extend NOA81 use cases by creating (i) 2D surface with controlled wettability gradient and (ii) a 3D column packed with monodisperse NOA81 beads of controlled size and wettability.