Polymer-fluid interfaces are used widely in a variety of applications, including separations, which require exposure of the polymer to dynamic flow conditions. Despite the ubiquity of such interfaces, the importance of convective mass transport within the near-interface region of a polymer is a fundamental process that is still poorly defined. As a step toward better defining mass transport behavior within the near-interface portion of a polymer, in this work, a new application of a spectroscopic method based on the combination of Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) and total internal reflectance fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM) is reported that allows quantification of the penetration depth of a laminar flow field (i.e., the slip length) in a densely grafted, thin poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAM) film as a model polymer system. Specifically, decay curves from FRET of an acceptor with a donor attached at the substrate surface are fit to a combined Taylor-Aris-Fickian mass transport model to extract apparent linear diffusion coefficients of acceptor molecules for different flow rates. Apparent diffusion coefficients range from 1.9 × 10-12 to 9.1 × 10-12 cm2/s for near-surface flow linear velocities ranging from 192 to 2952 μm/s. This increase in apparent diffusion coefficient with fluid flow rate suggests increasing contributions from convective mass transport that are indicative of flow field penetration into the polymer film. The depth of penetration of the flow field is estimated to range from ∼6% of the polymer film thickness in a good solvent at ∼192 μm/s to ∼60% of the film thickness at ∼2952 μm/s. Thus, flow field penetration into polymer thin films, with its concomitant contributions from convective mass transport within the near-interface region of the polymer, is demonstrated and quantified experimentally.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry