Superhard transparent hybrid nanocomposites for high fidelity UV-nanoimprint lithography
Transparent hyperbranched acrylate nanocomposites were produced using different combinations of silica nanoparticles and silicon-based sol-gel precursors. The nanocomposites were processed using a dual-cure UV polymerization and condensation scheme. The viscosity of hybrid suspensions was found to be one to two orders of magnitude lower than that of particulate composites with the same equivalent silica fraction. The Vickers microhardness of the polymer was 112 MPa. It was equal to 190 MPa and 148 MPa for the hybrid composites and particulate composites with 20 vol% SiO2, respectively, and it was equal to 287 MPa for the hybrid material with 30 vol% SiO2. Light-trapping textures in the form of random sub-micron pyramidal features were replicated in the hybrid composites from a nickel template using UV-nanoimprint lithography. After optimization of the dual-cure process sequence, a very high replication fidelity was obtained for all investigated compositions, leading to a haze above 99% over the visible light spectrum and a very effective light scattering performance in a broad angular exposure. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.