Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Polymer Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Alfred J. Crosby

Second Advisor

Ryan C. Hayward

Third Advisor

Christian D. Santangelo

Subject Categories

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology | Polymer Science


This work focuses on understanding the buckling deformation mechanisms of bending, wrinkling, and folding that occur on the surfaces and interfaces of polymer systems. We gained fundamental insight into the formation mechanism of these buckled structures for thin glassy films placed on an elastomeric substrate. By taking advantage of geometric confinement, we demonstrated new strategies in controlling wrinkling morphologies. We were able to achieve surfaces with controlled patterned structures which will have a broad impact in optical, adhesive, microelectronics, and microfluidics applications.

Wrinkles and strain localized features, such as delaminations and folds, are observed in many natural systems and are useful for a wide range of patterning applications. However, the transition from sinusoidal wrinkles to more complex strain localized structures is not well understood. We investigated the onset of wrinkling and strain localizations under uniaxial strain. We show that careful measurement of feature amplitude allowed not only the determination of wrinkle, fold, or delamination onset, but also allowed clear distinction between each feature. The folds observed in this experiment have an outward morphology from the surface in contrast to folds that form into the plane, as observed in a film floating on a liquid substrate. A critical strain map was constructed, where the critical strain was measured experimentally for wrinkling, folding, and delamination with varying film thickness and modulus.

Wrinkle morphologies, i.e. amplitude and wavelength of wrinkles, affect properties such as electron transport in stretchable electronics and adhesion properties of smart surfaces. To gain an understanding of how the wrinkle morphology can be controlled, we introduced a geometrical confinement in the form of rigid boundaries. Upon straining, we found that wrinkles started near the rigid boundaries where maximum local strain occurred and propagated towards the middle as more global strain was applied. In contrast to homogeneous wrinkling with constant amplitude that is observed for an unconfined system, the wrinkling observed here had varying amplitude as a function of distance from the rigid boundaries. We demonstrated that the number of wrinkles can be tuned by controlling the distance between the rigid boundaries.

Location of wrinkles was also controlled by introducing local stress distributions via patterning the elastomeric substrate. Two distinct wrinkled regions were achieved on a surface where the film is free-standing over a circular hole pattern and where the film is supported by the substrate. The hoe diameter and applied strain affected the wavelength and amplitude of the free-standing membrane.

Using discontinuous dewetting, a one-step fabrication method was developed to selectively deposit a small volume of liquid in patterned microwells and encapsulate it with a polymeric film. The pull-out velocity, a velocity at which the sample is removed from a bath of liquid, was controlled to observe how encapsulation process is affected. The polymeric film was observed to wrinkle at low pull-out velocity due to no encapsulation of liquid; whereas the film bent at medium pull-out velocity due to capillary effect as the liquid evaporated through the film. To quantify the amount of liquid encapsulated, we mixed salt in water and measured the size of the deposited salt crystals. The salt crystal size, and hence the amount of liquid encapsulated, was controlled by varying either the encapsulation velocity or the size of the patterned microwells. In addition, we showed that the deposited salt crystals are protected by the laminated film until the film is removed, providing advantageous control for delivery and release. Yeast cells were also captured in the microwells to show the versatility. This encapsulation method is useful for wide range of applications, such as trapping single cells for biological studies, growing microcrystals for optical and magnetic applications, and single-use sensor technologies.