Journal article

Surface 3D Micro Free Forms: Multifunctional Microstructured Mesoporous alpha-Alumina by in Situ Slip Casting Using Excimer Laser Ablated Polycarbonate Molds

Ceramic surface microstructuring is a rapidly growing field with a variety of applications in tribology, wetting, biology, and so on. However, there are limitations to large-area microstructuring and fabrication of three-dimensional (3D) micro free forms. Here, we present a route to obtain intricate surface structures through in situ slip casting using polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) negative molds which are replicated from excimer laser ablated polycarbonate (PC) master molds. PC sheets are ablated with a nanosecond KrF (lambda = 248 nm) excimer laser mask projection system to obtain micron-scale 3D surface features over a large area of up to 3 m(2). Complex surface structures that include 3D free forms such as 3D topography of Switzerland, shallow structures such as diffractive optical elements (60 nm step) and conical micropillars have been obtained. The samples are defect-free produced with thicknesses of up to 10 mm and 120 mm diameter. The drying process of the slip cast alumina slurry takes place as a one-dimensional process, through surface evaporation and water permeation through the PDMS membrane. This allows homogeneous one-dimensional shrinkage during the drying process, independent of the sample's lateral dimensions. A linear mass diffusion model has been proposed to predict and explain the drying process of these ceramic colloidal suspensions. The calculated drying time is linearly proportional to the height of the slurry and the thickness of the negatively structured PDMS and is validated by the experimental results. An experimentally observed optimum Sylgard PDMS thickness range of similar to 400 mu m to 1 mm has achieved the best quality microstructured green compacts. Further, the model predicts that the drying time is independent of the microstructured areas and was validated using experimental observations carried out with microstructured areas of 300 mm(2), 1200 mm(2), and 120 cm(2). Therefore, in principle, the structures can be further replicated in areas up to 3 m(2) with the same drying time for the same slurry height. The surface-structured ceramics display interesting wetting properties, for example, eicosane-coated mesoporous microstructured alumina shows superhydrophobic behavior. Additionally, ceramic bulk samples could be further used as second-generation very hard and low-wear molds for further microfabrication.


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