Crystallization kinetics and crystal morphology in thin poly(ethylene oxide) films
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We present a detailed study of the kinetics of crystallization for thin films of poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO). Measurements of the growth rate have been carried out using optical-microscopy techniques on films of monodisperse PEO. Films with thicknesses from 13 nm to approximately 2 microm were crystallized isothermally at temperatures approximately 20 degrees C below the melting point. A remarkable non-monotonic slowing-down of the crystal growth is observed for films with thickness less than approximately 400 nm. The changes in the growth rate from bulk-like values is significant and corresponds to a factor of 40 decrease for the thinnest films studied. The morphologies of isothermally crystallized samples are studied using atomic-force microscopy. We find that a morphology, similar to diffusion-controlled growth (dendritic growth and densely branched growth), is observed for films with h<150 nm. In addition, changes in the morphology occur for thicknesses consistent with changes in the growth rate as a function of film thickness.
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