Research Papers

Fabrication of Small Pore-Size Nickel Foams Using Electroless Plating of Solid-State Foamed Immiscible Polymer Blends

[+] Author and Article Information
Sriharsha S. Sundarram

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Austin, TX 78712

Wei Jiang

Materials Science and Engineering Program,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Austin, TX 78712

Wei Li

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Austin, TX 78712;
Materials Science and Engineering Program,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Austin, TX 78712
e-mail: weiwli@austin.utexas.edu

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received May 27, 2013; final manuscript received August 27, 2013; published online January 3, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Y. B. Guo.

J. Manuf. Sci. Eng 136(2), 021002 (Jan 03, 2014) (7 pages) Paper No: MANU-13-1235; doi: 10.1115/1.4025418 History: Received May 27, 2013; Revised August 27, 2013

A novel fabrication process of small pore-size nickel foams has been developed using electroless plating of solid-state foamed immiscible polymer blends. Ethylene acrylic acid (EAA) and polystyrene (PS) were melt-blended with extrusion to obtain a dual phase cocontinuous morphology. Gas saturation and foaming studies were performed to determine appropriate process conditions for foaming of the two-phase material. Open-celled polymer templates were obtained by extracting the PS phase with dichloromethane (DCM). The templates were subsequently used for nickel foam plating in ethanol-based electroless plating solutions. Nickel foams with pore sizes on the level of tens of micrometers and porosity above 90% were fabricated. It was found that gas concentration and foaming temperature were major process variables significantly affecting the foam porosity. Foaming allowed faster PS extraction and higher porosity of the nickel plating templates. Because of the small pore size, ethanol-based solutions need to be used to ensure the infiltration of plating solutions. The developed process is a bulk method and can be used for large-scale fabrication of small pore-size nickel foams with high porosity.

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Fig. 1

Schematic for fabrication of open-cell template via solid-state foaming of immiscible polymer blends

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Fig. 2

Plot of thermal treatment cycle to obtain Ni foam from EAA/PS template coated using electroless plating

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Fig. 3

Cross section of EAA/PS extruded blend processed at (a) 195 °C, (b) 210 °C, and (c) 225 °C for 5 min at 150 rpm

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Fig. 7

Capillary pressure as a function of pore size for ethanol-EAA/PS and water-EAA/PS systems along with contact angle measurements

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Fig. 6

EDS results performed on center section of resultant nickel foam (a) line scan analysis and (b) elemental spectrum

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Fig. 5

SEM images of cross sections of Ni foam obtained from electroless plating of solid-state foamed EAA/PS immiscible blends at (a) 130 × and (b) 400×

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Fig. 4

SEM images of cross sections of foamed sample (a) before and (b) after PS extraction (2 MPa saturation for 2.5 days, foamed at 110 °C for 20 s, 24 h in DCM)



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