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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Thickness Characterization Toolbox for Transparent Protective Coatings on Polymer Substrates

Sol-Gel Centre for Research on Inorganic Powders and Thin Film Synthesis (SCRiPTS), Department of Chemistry, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281-S3, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
Department of Chemistry, Universiteit Antwerpen, Campus Drie Eiken, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
Photonics Research Group, Department of Information Technology, Ghent University-IMEC, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
Conformal Coating of Nanomaterials (CoCooN), Department of Solid State Sciences, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281-S1, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
Institute of Condensed Matter and Nanosciences, Université catholique de Louvain, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Materials 2018, 11(7), 1101;
Received: 30 May 2018 / Accepted: 26 June 2018 / Published: 28 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue State-of-the-Art Materials Science in Belgium 2017)
The thickness characterization of transparent protective coatings on functional, transparent materials is often problematic. In this paper, a toolbox to determine the thicknesses of a transparent coating on functional window films is presented. The toolbox consists of a combination of secondary ion mass spectrometry and profilometry and can be transferred to other transparent polymeric materials. A coating was deposited on designed model samples, which were characterized with cross-sectional views in transmission and in scanning/transmission electron microscopy and ellipsometry. The toolbox was then used to assess the thicknesses of the protective coatings on the pilot-scale window films. This coating was synthesized using straightforward sol-gel alkoxide chemistry. The kinetics of the condensation are studied in order to obtain a precursor that allows fast drying and complete condensation after simple heat treatment. The shelf life of this precursor solution was investigated in order to verify its accordance to industrial requirements. Deposition was performed successfully at low temperatures below 100 °C, which makes deposition on polymeric foils possible. By using roll-to-roll coating, the findings of this paper are easily transferrable to industrial scale. The coating was tested for scratch resistance and adhesion. Values for the emissivity (ε) of the films were recorded to justify the use of the films obtained as infrared reflective window films. In this work, it is shown that the toolbox measures similar thicknesses to those measured by electron microscopy and can be used to set a required thickness for protective coatings. View Full-Text
Keywords: coating materials; inorganic materials; surfaces and interfaces; sol-gel processes; low-emissivity; SIMS coating materials; inorganic materials; surfaces and interfaces; sol-gel processes; low-emissivity; SIMS
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Van Zele, M.; Watté, J.; Hasselmeyer, J.; Rijckaert, H.; Vercammen, Y.; Verstuyft, S.; Deduytsche, D.; Debecker, D.P.; Poleunis, C.; Van Driessche, I.; De Buysser, K. Thickness Characterization Toolbox for Transparent Protective Coatings on Polymer Substrates. Materials 2018, 11, 1101.

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