This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Designer Silica Layers for Advanced Applications: Processing and Properties




Anderson, Adam

Type of Degree



Chemical Engineering


Recently, as scientists have investigated the application of conventional MEMS devices to biological systems, the exciting fields of bio-MEMS and microfluidics have emerged. Due to their small size, bio-MEMS and microfluidics devices offer the advantage of requiring only small sample and reagent volumes, in a potentially low-cost, integrated package. Such devices have the potential to significantly advance point-of-care diagnostics devices and improve overall patient care. However, due to the extremely small feature size, the large surface area-to-volume ratio in these devices makes controlling surface interactions of critical importance. Recently, there has been a shift to polymeric materials for fabrication of microfluidics devices due to their lower cost, ease of device fabrication by various processes, varied and favorable material properties, and, in some cases, pre-existing regulatory agency approvals. As a result, various surface modification strategies for polymeric surfaces have been proposed, but with only limited success. The proven success of organosilicon-based precursors in a wide variety of surface modification strategies has been demonstrated, with a body of knowledge on the general subject dating back nearly fifty years. However, these proven methodologies cannot be transferred to many important polymeric materials due to a lack of sufficient reactive groups on the surface. If any polymer surface could be made reactive by some intermediate treatment, the wide body of knowledge of organosilicon-based surface modification chemistries could be leveraged to advance the state-of-the-art in surface modification for microfluidics applications, where polymeric substrates are commonly encountered. This thesis reports on the processing properties and chemical properties of a vapor deposited silica layer, which is formed from the vapor phase hydrolysis of silicon tetrachloride. This layer can be deposited at low temperatures to a wide variety of substrates, including glasses, metals, fibers, polymers, and plastics. This process has the potential to enable common organosilicon-based chemistries on polymer surfaces, but before the potential impact of this technology can be realized, the fundamental groundwork must be laid. In this work, a series of investigations into the properties of the vapor deposited silica layer are conducted. It is determined that the morphology of the silica layer depends strongly on the relative pressures of the precursor gases. Furthermore, the vapor deposited silica layer has many commonalities with conventionally prepared silica materials (fumed or precipitated) and does support the formation of self-assembled monolayers for organosilicon-based precursors. However, there are also some differences in chemical reactivity of surface groups on the vapor deposited silica layer relative to the surface of conventionally prepared silica materials, which contribute to different chemical behavior in some circumstances. Also, the deposition of the silica layers under study here is confirmed on several model polymeric substrates by ATR-FTIR and atomic force microscopy.