At the Fraunhofer IST, processes are developed with which planar and 3D surfaces can be chemically functionalized or coated in a targeted manner. By means of reactive species in the plasma, materials are functionalized or cleaned. In plasma polymerization, a coating-former is added to the gas. The process is adapted in such a way that the chemical functionality of the starting material is retained. In addition to classic silicon-organic compounds, carbon and bio-inspired systems are increasingly coming to the forefront for this purpose in research work.
As so-called »cold plasmas«, atmospheric pressure plasmas have many advantages, particularly in the functionalization and coating of temperature-sensitive materials. The processes can be very well integrated into process chains, as they take place at ambient pressure and do not involve wet chemistry. Chemical functionalization of the substrate surface enables adapted wettability or control of adhesion, e.g. of coatings, printing inks or in material composites. At the IST, research is also being conducted into non-stick coatings as well as antimicrobial and switchable systems.
Through the expansion of plasma polymerization to high-molecular, complex layer formers, it will prospectively also be possible to address applications that currently still require a combination of plasma and wet-chemical processes.
There exists therefore considerable potential for making the coating process even more sustainable –in particular if precursors from waste streams are utilized. Furthermore, we are also addressing triggerable adhesive systems in order to further optimize material cycles and to be able to reuse or recycle materials despite their being coated.
At the Fraunhofer IST, a number of facilities are available for the functionalization and coating of planar substrates by means of atmospheric pressure plasma processes. The system principle is based on a dielectric barrier discharge (DBE) and is suitable for both conductive and insulating materials. The processes can be carried out both in batch processes and in a roll-to-roll system. The focus of the work at IST is the development of new coating processes for the optimization of the functionality of the base material.