Low-frequency plasma activation of nylon 6
In the study reported in this paper, a series of reproducible conditions were employed to uniformly functionalize nylon 6 surfaces using a commercially available, low-frequency (40 kHz), low-pressure plasma system, utilizing oxygen plasma as a reactive gas. Initially, the plasma-treated samples were investigated using static contact angle measurements, showing a progressive increase in wettability with increasing plasma activation time between 10 and 40 s. Such an increase in wettability (and therefore increase in adhesive capabilities of the surfaces) was attributed to the creation of surface C-OH, C=O, and COOH groups. These surface-chemical modifications were characterized using x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and static secondary ion mass spectrometry (SSIMS). Surface radical densities were also shown to increase following plasma activation, having been quantified using a radical scavenging method based on the molecule 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH). The samples were imaged and analyzed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM), to confirm that there had been no detectable alteration to the surface roughness or morphology. Additionally, the “hydrophobic recovery” or “ageing” of the activated polymer samples, post-plasma treatment, was also investigated in terms of wettability and surface-chemistry, with the wettability of the sample surfaces decreasing over time due to a reduction in surface-oxygen concentration.