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Polymer sample preparation techniques

Sputter coating

A sputter coater may be purchased that deposits single layers of gold, gold-palladium, tungsten, chromium, platinum, titanium, or other metals in a very controlled thickness pattern. It is possible, and desirable, to coat only a few nm’s of metal onto the sample surface.

Spin coating

Many polymer films are depositing via a spin coater which spins a substrate (often ITO glass) and drops of polymer liquid are dispersed an even thickness on top of the substrate.


Another option for polymer sample preparation is staining the sample. Stains act in different ways, but typical stains for polymers are osmium tetroxide (OsO 4 ), ruthenium tetroxide (RuO 4 ) phosphotungstic acid (H 3 PW 12 O 40 ), hydrazine (N 2 H 4 ), and silver sulfide (Ag 2 S).


Comb-block copolymer (microstructure of cast film)

  • Cast polymer film (see [link] ).
  • To view interior structure, the film was cut with a microtome or razor blade after the film was frozen in liquid N 2 and fractured.
  • Stained with RuO 4 vapor (after cutting).
  • Structure measurements were averaged over a minimum of 25 measurements.
SEM micrograph of comb block copolymer showing spherical morphology and long range order. Adapted from M. B. Runge and N. B. Bowden, J. Am. Chem. Soc. , 2007, 129 , 10551. Copyright: American Chemical Society (2007).

Polystyrene-polylactide bottlebrush copolymers (lamellar spacing)

  • Pressed polymer samples into disks and annealed for 16 h at 170 °C.
  • To determine ordered morphologies, the disk was fractured (see [link] ).
  • Used SEM to verify lamellar spacing from USAXS.
SEM image of a fractured piece of polymer SL-1. Adapted from J. Rzayev, Macromolecules , 2009, 42 , 2135. Copyright: American Chemical Society (2009).

Swnts in ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene

  • Dispersed SWNTs in interactive polymer.
  • Samples were sputter-coated in gold to enhance contrast.
  • The films were solution-crystallized and the cross-section was imaged.
  • Environmental SEM (ESEM) was used to show morphologies of composite materials.
  • WD = 7 mm.
  • Study was conducted to image sample before and after drawing of film.
  • Images confirmed the uniform distribution of SWNT in PE ( [link] ).
  • M W = 10,000 Dalton.
  • Study performed to compare transparency before and after UV irradiation.
SEM images of crystallized SWNT-UHMWPE films before (left) and after (right) drawing at 120 °C. Adapted from Q. Zhang, D. R. Lippits, and S. Rastogi, Macromolecules , 2006, 39 , 658. Copyright: American Chemical Society (2006).

Nanostructures in conjugated polymers (nanoporous films)

  • Polymer and NP were processed into thin films and heated to crosslink.
  • SEM was used to characterize morphology and crystalline structure ( [link] ).
  • SEM was used to determine porosity and pore size.
  • Magnified orders of 200 nm - 1 μm.
  • WD = 8 mm.
  • M W = 23,000 Daltons
  • Sample prep: spin coating a solution of poly-(thiophene ester) with copper NPs suspended on to ITO coated glass slides. Ziess, Supra 35
SEM images of thermocleaved film loaded with nanoparticles with scale bar 1 μm. Adapted from J. W. Andreasen, M. Jorgensen, and F. C. Krebs, Macromolecules , 2007, 40 , 7758. Copyright: American Chemical Society (2007).

Cryo-sem colloid polystyrene latex particles (fracture patterns)

  • Used cryogenic SEM (cryo-SEM) to visualize the microstructure of particles ( [link] ).
  • Particles were immobilized by fast-freezing in liquid N 2 at –196 °C.
  • Sample is fractured (-196 °C) to expose cross section.
  • 3 nm sputter coated with platinum.
  • Shapes of the nanoparticles after fracture were evaluated as a function of crosslink density.
Cryo-SEM images of plastically drawn polystyrene and latex particles. Adapted from H. Ge, C. L. Zhao, S. Porzio, L. Zhuo, H. T. Davis, and L. E. Scriven, Macromolecules , 2006, 39 , 5531. Copyright: American Chemical Society (2006).


  • H. Ge, C. L. Zhao, S. Porzio, L. Zhuo, H. T. Davis, and L. E. Scriven, Macromolecules , 2006, 39 , 5531.
  • J. Rzayev, Macromolecules , 2009, 42 , 2135.
  • J. W. Andreasen, M. Jorgensen, and F. C. Krebs, Macromolecules , 2007, 40 , 7758.
  • M. B. Runge and N. B. Bowden, J. Am. Chem. Soc. , 2007, 129 , 10551.
  • P. J. Goodhew, J. Humphreys, and R. Beanland, Electron Microscopy and Analysis , Taylor&Francis Inc., New York (2001).
  • Q. Zhang, D. R. Lippits, and S. Rastogi, Macromolecules , 2006, 39 , 658.

Questions & Answers

how do you translate this in Algebraic Expressions
linda Reply
why surface tension is zero at critical temperature
Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
Crystal Reply
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Chris Reply
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Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
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preparation of nanomaterial
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Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
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In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
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this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
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the Beer law works very well for dilute solutions but fails for very high concentrations. why?
bamidele Reply
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