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Templated nanofiber synthesis via chemical vapor polymerization into liquid crystalline films

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Science  16 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6416, pp. 804-808
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar8449

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Patterned fiber formation

The ability of liquid crystalline materials to order spontaneously has driven many innovations, from display technologies to extremely tough polymer fibers. Cheng et al. exploited this preponderance toward long-range ordering to direct the growth of nonliquid crystalline polymers into sheets of highly ordered fibers. Small changes to the processing conditions could be used to tweak the arrangement of the liquid crystals to generate a wide range of polymer mats or sheets for potential use in sensing or filtration applications.

Science, this issue p. 804

Abstract

Extrusion, electrospinning, and microdrawing are widely used to create fibrous polymer mats, but these approaches offer limited access to oriented arrays of nanometer-scale fibers with controlled size, shape, and lateral organization. We show that chemical vapor polymerization can be performed on surfaces coated with thin films of liquid crystals to synthesize organized assemblies of end-attached polymer nanofibers. The process uses low concentrations of radical monomers formed initially in the vapor phase and then diffused into the liquid-crystal template. This minimizes monomer-induced changes to the liquid-crystal phase and enables access to nanofiber arrays with complex yet precisely defined structures and compositions. The nanofiber arrays permit tailoring of a wide range of functional properties, including adhesion that depends on nanofiber chirality.

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