Inorganic layers on polymeric films - influence of defects and morphology on barrier properties
Flexible polymeric films are not only widely used in conventional packaging as substitute for glass and aluminum foil packaging but are also proposed as encapsulation for novel products, like flexible solar cells or organic light-emitting devices. The two essential properties of the polymeric packaging are flexibility and good permeation barrier properties against gases and vapors. This article deals with vacuum web coating as a common way of increasing barrier properties of polymeric films and the problems related to this procedure. Defects caused by particles and surface imperfections are found to dominate the permeation rate for such coated polymeric films. Atomic force microscopy, electron and also optical microscopy was used for analysis of the coating layer. Three-dimensional numerical simulations were performed for modeling of the influence of defect size, spacing and film thickness. Results of numerical modeling and of many practical experiments show that the permeability is almost independent of the substrate film thickness when a critical thickness is exceeded. In most cases the defects can be treated as independent of each other. The gas permeability of vacuum web-coated polymeric films can be quantitatively predicted by a simple formula. For gases, like oxygen, it is shown that a statistic analysis of the defect sizes by optical microscopy is sufficient. For water vapor transmission, however, the structure of the coating layer itself has also to be taken into account.