Nanoscale Thickness Control of Nanoporous Films Derived from Directionally Photopolymerized Mesophases

Omar Q. Imran, Na Kyung Kim, Lauren N. Bodkin, Gregory E. Dwulet, Xunda Feng, Kohsuke Kawabata, Menachem Elimelech, Douglas L. Gin, Chinedum O. Osuji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The preparation of thin films of nanostructured functional materials is a critical step in a diverse array of applications ranging from photonics to separation science. New thin-film fabrication methods are sought to harness the emerging potential of self-assembled nanostructured materials as next-generation membranes. Here, the authors show that nanometer-scale control over the thickness of self-assembled mesophases can be enacted by directional photopolymerization in the presence of highly photo-attenuating molecular species. Metrology reveals average film growth rates below ten nanometers per second, indicating that high-resolution fabrication is possible with this approach. The trends in experimental data are reproduced well in numerical simulations of mean-field frontal photopolymerization modeled in a highly photo-attenuating and photo-bleaching medium. These simulation results connect the experimentally observed nanometer-scale control of film growth to the strong photo-attenuating nature of the mesophase, which originates from its high-aromatic-ring content. Water permeability measurements conducted on the fabricated thin films show the expected linear scaling of permeability with film thickness. Film permeabilities compare favorably with current state-of-the-art nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes, suggesting that the current approach may be utilized to prepare new nanoporous membranes for such applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2001977
JournalAdvanced Materials Interfaces
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 9


  • frontal photopolymerization
  • nanoporous films
  • templated mesophase
  • thickness control
  • thin-films

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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