Introduction of a Chemical-Free Metal PDMS Thermal Bonding for Fabrication of Flexible Electrode by Metal Transfer onto PDMS

Micromachines (Basel). 2017 Sep 15;8(9):280. doi: 10.3390/mi8090280.


Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is a flexible and biocompatible material widely used in the fabrication of microfluidic devices, and is often studied for the fabrication of flexible electrodes. The most popular method of fabricating a flexible electrode using PDMS is done by transferring a metal electrode onto said PDMS. However, the transfer process is difficult and the transferred metal layer is easily damaged due to inherently weak adhesion forces between the metal and PDMS, thus requiring a chemical treatment or sacrificial layer between the two. The fabrication process using a chemical treatment or sacrificial layer is complicated and expensive, which is the major limitation of using PDMS in the fabrication of flexible electrodes. This paper discusses the findings of a possible solution to create strong bonding between PDMS and various metals (copper, nickel and silver) using a chemical-free metal to PDMS thermal bonding technique. This method is the same as the PDMS curing process, but with a variation in the curing condition. The condition required to create strong bonding was studied by observing copper transferred by various PDMS curing conditions, including the standard condition. The condition creating the strong bonding was baking PDMS (5:1 = base polymer: curing agent) at 150 °C for 20 min. Experimentation showed that the optimum thickness of the transferred metal shows that the optimum thickness is approximately 500 nm, which allows for a higher resistance to stresses. The successful transfer of copper, nickel and silver layers onto PDMS with a stronger adhesion force opens up many new applications dealing with the fabrication of flexible electrodes, sensors, and flexible soft magnets.

Keywords: chemical-free PDMS-metal bonding; flexible electrodes; metal and PDMS bonding; various metal transfer.