How Thermal Curing of an Organic Paper Coating Changes Topography, Chemistry, and Wettability

Celluloses are preferred renewable substrates, but hydrophilicity and porosity disfavor their water resistance. We present here an ecofriendly application of imidized nanoparticles and a method to flexibly tune the surface wettability of papers. The soft nanostructured coating is sensitive to thermal curing, which affects both the surface chemistry and morphology. The thermal stability of the coating is first investigated with conventional and modulated differential scanning calorimetry, revealing influences of the imide content and an endotherm reaction below the glass transition temperature at 120–150 °C. The latter is studied in detail for an appropriate selection of the copolymer precursors. According to diffuse reflection infrared spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and UV/vis spectroscopy, the endotherm corresponds to an imidization reaction. The morphology of the coatings is followed at various scale levels by contactless roughness measurements and atomic force microscopy. Finally, the experimental values are fitted to the parameters of the Wenzel wetting model, and so-called calibration curves for the relation between contact angles, surface roughness, and surface chemistry are presented. They allow the prediction of the water contact angle of coated papers from the hydrophilic to the hydrophobic range, with a maximum in hydrophobicity after increasing the imide content at 120–150 °C curing.