Interfacial Engineering and Materials Science
Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology
Interfaces of materials are the surfaces where the materials more or less interact with their environment. They play a supporting part in the development of materials and components in the automotive sector, of technical textiles or in medical technology. For many materials the surface properties required are often quite different from those which are intrinsic for the bulk material. To modify their properties, the interfaces are first characterized in detail, and then are functionally modified using plasma technology or supramolecular chemistry.
With regard to technical realization, we have established a large variety of methods which involve either films being deposited from the gas phase or the precipitation of thin films or particles from the liquid phase.
Established preparation methods
- Deposition of thin films by chemical and physical means, i.e. chemical or physical vapor deposition (plasma processing, evaporation, sputtering or parylene deposition)
- Deposition of nanoparticles using various polymerization methods
- Production of separation membranes by sol-gel processes and consecutive annealing
- Deposition of thin layers by layer-by-layer (LbL) techniques as well as by self-assembly monolayers (SAM)
- Deposition of thin films via spin-coating
- Generation of nanofibers by electrospinning
To achieve reliable processes, all steps of the process development have to be controlled. In addition, the products have to be characterized in detail. For this purpose a multitude of analytical tools is available and can partly also be used for in situ monitoring of processes (process diagnostics). Due to the fact that the majority of our products are characterized by nanometer dimensions (ultra-thin films and nanoparticles), we use several methods to deliver information which is space-resolved on the nanometer scale. Application-relevant properties such as the separation and permeation properties of films (membranes, barriers and corrosion protection) as well as the specific separation capabilities of molecularly imprinted nanoparticles or the dispersibility of modified carbon nanotubes are examined in customized experimental set-ups.
Established characterization and diagnostic processes
- Determination of interfacial energy with different types of tensiometers
- Logging of the topography and geometric patterning of surfaces on the nanometer scale using a variety of AFM probe modes as well as scanning electron microscopy and digital optical microscopy
- Determination of adsorption properties either by means of microcaloric measurements at the liquid phase (measurement of adsorption enthalpy) or by means of gas adsorption with simultaneous measurements of specific surface area (BET)
- Determination of film thicknesses using ellipsometry or microscopic techniques
- Qualitative and quantitative estimation of the chemical functions at surfaces and in thin films using IR spectroscopy in ATR mode, IR microscopy, confocal Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy as well as MALDI-TOF-SIMS (matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization time-of-flight mass spectroscopy)
- Determination of elemental composition, using electron spectroscopy, for chemical analyses (ESCA) and energy dispersive X-Ray analysis (EDX)
- For plasma process diagnostics, probe measurements as well as optical and mass spectrometric methods are available
Apart from the quality of the products, the material and energy efficiency of processes is of foremost concern. One way of tackling this is to miniaturize entire functional units which are manufactured as a combination of several thin films. The internal structure and the chemical composition of these layers are significant for the role of the films in modulating the transport of materials (membranes), of electrons (conductors and semi-conductors) or photons (fiber optics). This also opens up applications for thin-film components in photovoltaics, in batteries and in organic electronics. The challenge and objective of our process engineering development work is to find the best ways of combining thin films using a variety of specialized techniques.
Thanks to our combination of preparation methods and analytical tools, we are well prepared to successfully handle the development challenges of our clients across the IGB portfolio – whether in the medicine, pharmacy, chemistry, the environment or energy business area.
- Development of processes for the plasma modification of surfaces
- Development of thin films as protective layers (scratch and corrosion protection), barriers against permeation, and for use as reservoirs for the targeted release of substances (formulations)
- Functionalization of surfaces (chemical and biochemical)
- Development of plasma-cleaning and plasma-sterilization processes
- Synthesis and preparation of nanostructured materials with tailored surfaces
- Development of novel formulations using core-shell particles
- Characterization of nanoparticles, measurement of the particle sizes and particle size distribution by optical methods or in an electrical field
- Development of membranes and membrane modules
- Manufacturing and testing of membranes in pilot scale
- Surface and layer characterization
- Development of methods and plants
- Scaling up of laboratory processes to produce thin films on large format surfaces and scaling of nanoparticle production for greater volumes
Infrastructure, laboratory and technical equipment
- Plasma reactors for cleaning, sterilization, coating and functionalization
- Equipment for sputtering and parylene coating
- Electron (SEM) and probe (AFM) microscopes
- Equipment for the analysis of surfaces and thin films
- Chemical-nanotechnical laboratories for the synthesis and preparation of nanostructured (bio)materials and surfaces
- Pilot plants for the manufacturing and testing of membranes