Electrospray Deposition Tool: Creating Compositionally Gradient Libraries of Nanomaterials


Toth, K.; Osuji, C.O.; Yager, K.G.; Doerk, G.S. "Electrospray Deposition Tool: Creating Compositionally Gradient Libraries of Nanomaterials" Review of Scientific Instruments 2020, 91 013701.
doi: 10.1063/1.5129625


We present the design of a new electrospray tool that allows one to fabricate gradient thin films of polymer material.


Electrospray deposition (ESD) enables the growth of solution deposited thin films in a precise and continuous manner by the delivery of submicron droplets of dilute solutions to a heated substrate. By combining ESD with programmable motor control and gradient solution pumping in a first-of-its-kind user tool at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory, we show the ability to create one or two dimensional compositional gradient nanoscale films via ESD. These capabilities make it possible to construct thin film multicomponent “libraries” on a single substrate to rapidly and systematically characterize composition-dependent properties in a variety of material systems such as thin films involving homopolymer and block copolymer blends. We report the design, construction, and validation of a gradient ESD tool that allows users to carefully control the jet stability, flow composition, spray position, and substrate temperature. Calibrated thin films range in thickness from tens to hundreds of nanometers. We demonstrate gradient thin films using a ternary dye triangle as well as a gradual blending of polystyrene homopolymer with poly(styrene-block-methyl methacrylate) on a single substrate. Paired with the rapid measurement capabilities of synchrotron small angle X-ray scattering, this tool forms an integral part of a new platform for high-throughput, autonomous characterization and design of nanomaterial thin films and soft materials more generally.