Mechanical properties of polymer nanostructures: measurements based on deformation in response to capillary forces
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Arrays of test structures consisting of sub-150 nm wide beams were lithographically fabricated in poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and used to measure the elastic mechanical properties of the material. Capillary forces that arise during the drying of rinse liquids from the test structures caused the nanoscale polymer beams to deform. The initial capillary forces were defined by the test structure geometry, and the magnitudes of the forces were quantified using a two-dimensional Young–Laplace equation. The deformation of the nanostructured beams was measured experimentally and compared to a model based on continuum-level bending beam mechanics, thereby enabling the calculation of the Young’s modulus (E) of the material. For PMMA beams greater than 100 nm in width E was calculated to be 5.1 GPa at room temperature, which corresponds closely to the elastic modulus of bulk PMMA. The Young’s moduli of structures with dimensions less than 100 nm were measured to be less than the bulk value and the origin of the decrease is discussed in terms of dimension dependent properties and polymer degradation during fabrication. The polymer nanostructures also were determined to mechanically deform more readily with increasing characterization temperature.
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