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Progress Toward Meeting NIF Specifications for Vapor Deposited Polyimide Ablator Coatings

Stephan A. Letts, Mitchell Anthamatten, Steven R. Buckley, Evelyn Fearon, April E. H. Nissen, Robert C. Cook

Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 45 / Number 2 / March 2004 / Pages 180-186

Technical Paper / Target Fabrication /

We are developing an evaporative coating technique for deposition of thick polyimide (PI) ablator layers on ICF targets. The PI coating technique utilizes stoichiometrically controlled fluxes from two Knudsen cell evaporators containing a dianhydride and a diamine to deposit a polyamic acid (PAA) coating. Heating the PAA coating to 300°C converts the PAA coating to a polyimide. Coated shells are rough due to particles on the substrate mandrels and from damage to the coating caused by the agitation used to achieve a uniform coating. We have developed a smoothing process that exposes an initially rough PAA coated shell to solvent vapor using gas levitation. We found that after smoothing the coatings developed a number of wide (low-mode) defects. We have identified two major contributors to low-mode roughness: surface hydrolysis, and deformation during drying/curing. By minimizing air exposure prior to vapor smoothing, avoiding excess solvent sorption during vapor smoothing, and using slow drying we are able to deposit and vapor smooth coatings 160 m thick with a surface roughness less than 20 nm RMS.

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