Surface pre-treatment for barrier coatings on polyethylene terephthalate

H Bahre, Karim Bahroun, H Behm, Simon Steves, Peter Awakowicz, M Boke, C Hopmann, Jörg Winter

JOURNAL OF PHYSICS D-APPLIED PHYSICS, Volume: 46, Issue: 8, Article Number: 084012, DOI: 10.1088/0022-3727/46/8/084012, Published: FEB 27 2013


Polymers have favourable properties such as light weight, flexibility and transparency. Consequently, this makes them suitable for food packaging, organic light-emitting diodes and flexible solar cells. Nonetheless, raw plastics do not possess sufficient barrier functionality against oxygen and water vapour, which is of paramount importance for most applications. A widespread solution is to deposit thin silicon oxide layers using plasma processes. However, silicon oxide layers do not always fulfil the requirements concerning adhesion and barrier performance when deposited on films. Thus, plasma pre-treatment is often necessary. To analyse the influence of a plasma-based pre-treatment on barrier performance, different plasma pre-treatments on three reactor setups were applied to a very smooth polyethylene terephthalate film before depositing a silicon oxide barrier layer. In this paper, the influence of oxygen and argon plasma pre-treatments towards the barrier performance is discussed examining the chemical and topological change of the film.

It was observed that a short one-to-ten-second plasma treatment can reduce the oxygen transmission rate by a factor of five. The surface chemistry and the surface topography change significantly for these short treatment times, leading to an increased surface energy. The surface roughness rises slowly due to the development of small spots in the nanometre range. For very long treatment times, surface roughness of the order of the barrier layer's thickness results in a complete loss of barrier properties. During plasma pre-treatment, the trade-off between surface activation and roughening of the surface has to be carefully considered.

tags: plasma