In this work, the bonding strength of microchips fabricated by thiol-ene free-radical polymerization was characterized in detail by varying the monomeric thiol/allyl composition from the stoichiometric ratio (1:1) up to 100% excess of thiol (2:1) or allyl (1:2) functional groups. Four different thiol-ene to thiol-ene bonding combinations were tested by bonding: (i) two stoichiometric layers, (ii) two layers bearing complementary excess of thiols and allyls, (iii) two layers both bearing excess of thiols, or (iv) two layers both bearing excess of allyls. The results showed that the stiffness of the cross-linked polymer plays the most crucial role regarding the bonding strength. The most rigid polymer layers were obtained by using the stoichiometric composition or an excess of allyls, and thus, the bonding combinations (i) and (iv) withstood the highest pressures (up to the cut-off value of 6 bar). On the other hand, excess of thiol monomers yielded more elastic polymer layers and thus decreased the pressure tolerance for bonding combinations (ii) and (iii). By using monomers with more thiol groups (e.g. tetrathiol versus trithiol), a higher cross-linking ratio, and thus, greater stiffness was obtained. Surface characterization by infrared spectroscopy confirmed that the changes in the monomeric thiol/allyl composition were also reflected in the surface chemistry. The flexibility of being able to bond different types of thiol-enes together allows for tuning of the surface chemistry to yield the desired properties for each application. Here, a capillary electrophoresis separation is performed to demonstrate the attractive properties of stoichiometric thiol-ene microchips.
Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, 2013, Vol 23, Issue 3