Journal of Materials Research


Cure depth in photopolymerization: Experiments and theory

Jim H. Leea1, Robert K. Prud'hommea1 and Ilhan A. Aksaya1

a1 Department of Chemical Engineering and Princeton Materials Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544–5263


The depth of photocuring for a model resin system was investigated as a function of photoinitiator concentration. Direct measurements of gel thickness were made from thin films of cross-linked multifunctional methacrylate monomer. The monomer, 2,2-bis{4-[2-hydroxy-3-(methacryloxy)propoxy]phenyl}propane, was polymerized in a solution of trichloroethylene with an ultraviolet laser light source at 325 nm. The monomer solutions were photocured using varying levels of both photonic energy and photoinitiator concentration. An optimal photoinitiator concentration that maximized the gel cure depth was observed. Additionally, two regimes were shown to exist in which the shrinkage (upon solvent removal) was minimized or maximized. A model was developed to probe the physics of the system. Good agreement with experiment was obtained, and the model may be employed to predict both the existence and location of the optimal photoinitiator concentration and the corresponding cure depth. The study showed that photoinitiator plays a significant role in controlling the quality and performance of the formed gel network, with special regard to thickness of cured layers. This has potential application to fields as diverse as industrially cured coatings and dental fillings, and more generally, 3-dimensional rapid prototyping techniques.

(Received August 21 2000)

(Accepted September 27 2001)