TECHNOLOGY/BUSINESS OPPORTUNITYA Tough, Environmentally Benign Ultra-thin Membrane for Biomedical Applications

Agency: Department of Energy
State: California
Level of Government: Federal
  • A - Research and development
Opps ID: NBD00159909897685545
Posted Date: Oct 2, 2017
Due Date: Nov 2, 2017
Solicitation No: FBO357-17
Source: Members Only
Solicitation Number :
Notice Type :
Special Notice
Synopsis :
Added: Oct 02, 2017 2:33 pm


A Tough, Environmentally Benign Ultra-thin Membrane for Biomedical Applications

Opportunity :

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), operated by the Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), LLC under contract no. DE-AC52-07NA27344 (Contract 44) with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is offering the opportunity to commercialize its large area (greater than 100 cm2), ultrathin (less than 10 nm thick), ultra strong, free-standing polymer films technology.


Ultra-thin polymer films are defined as films with thicknesses below 100 nm. The thinnest freestanding films found in open literature are 20 nm thick and typically have diameters of less than 100 um. Such films are typically made by spin coating or dip coating a dilute solution of the polymer onto a substrate. Release the film from the substrate presents a problem. Typically a release or sacrificial layer such as sputtered salt or soap is dissolved to remove the film is removed from the substrate. The films are released by immersion in water. The film will float on the water surface and can be transferred to a holder, commonly a grid with small (typically sub-micron to 100 um) openings that define the free-standing area of film.

Most disadvantages of the current method are connected to the substrate. The substrate preparation can introduce roughness on the order of several nanometers, especially in the case of sputtered liftoff layers and the nonuniformity becomes more severe as the film thickness is reduced. Sacrificial liftoff layers can contaminate the film and decrease the strength of the film. At thicknesses lower than 30 nm, just the release of the film from the substrate becomes difficult to impossible. In addition, the shape of the holder, the liftoff technique itself, and the properties of the polymer that is used to produce the thin film limit the size of the film. Large films will often tear when lifted out of the water, and in some cases they tear while drying.

Biomedical membranes today are manufactured through such processes as microlithography, ion beam etching, electrochemical leaching (anodization) and sol-gel processes. PEEL offers a potentially simpler, faster way to produce biomedically useful membranes.

PEEL was originally developed to produce ultrathin films for the assembly of inertial confinement fusion targets. These targets have a fuel capsule that must be supported with minimal mass to avoid perturbations to the implosion.


LLNL Polyelectrolyte Enabled Liftoff (PEEL), is used to fabricate freestanding polymer films as thin as 10 nm that are capable of bearing loads ranging from milligrams to grams and deformations of up to forty percent (40%). PEEL employs robust, water-based, and self-optimizing surface chemistry to fabricate ultrathin films greater than 100 cm2 in area. The process is easily scalable in size and manufacturing quantity and applicable to a variety of polymeric materials.

The key to PEEL's usefulness to industrial processes is its flexibility. It is scalable up to roll-to-roll level for high manufacturing volumes. It can use any kind of chemistry to generate membranes. Another significant benefit is that the film removal is water-based-it doesn't need hazardous organic solvents. This makes PEEL a far more environmentally benign, safer process. PEEL allows its user to self-optimize the manufacturing process at any scale from surface micromachining to roll level.

PEEL's scalability, low cost, and environmentally benign chemistry offer benefits to a wide range of membrane manufacturing processes in use today. It could help manufacturers overcome a cost and production barriers limiting the broader adoption of advanced membrane technologies that are thought too costly or too difficult to manufacture.

Advantages :

The PEEL method is:

? Low cost

? Self-optimizing,

? Reproducible,

? Scalable to large areas,

? Reliably over numerous batches,

Environmentally benign, and

? Does not contaminate the water used to release the film

Potential Applications :

Membranes for biomedical uses are experiencing a surge of interest. Biocompatible membranes have applications ranging from hemodialysis to wound dressing, purifying biologically active materials, drug delivery through implantable devices with nanoporous membranes, and manufacturing artificial tissues such as blood vessels and cartilage for medical purposes. Biomembranes are also used in biosensors to detect medically hazardous compounds and diagnosis, and to immunoisolate or protect implanted cells or drug release devices from immune reactions.

Other potential uses involve the fabrication of separation membranes for carbon capture and for desalination.

Development Status:

LLNL has filed for patent protection on the PEEL fabrication technology.

PEEL: Fabricating free-standing ultrathin polymer films over large areas by Salmaan Baxamusa, Staff Scientist

PEEL was selected as a 2016 R&D 100 Award Winner.

LLNL is seeking industry partners with a demonstrated ability to bring such inventions to the market. Moving critical technology beyond the Laboratory to the commercial world helps our licensees gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. All licensing activities are conducted under policies relating to the strict nondisclosure of company proprietary information .

Please visit the IPO website at for more information on working with LLNL and the industrial partnering and technology transfer process.

Note: THIS IS NOT A PROCUREMENT . Companies interested in commercializing LLNL's Polyelectrolyte Enabled Liftoff (PEEL) technology should provide a written statement of interest, which includes the following:

1. Company Name and address.

2. The name, address, and telephone number of a point of contact.

3. A description of corporate expertise and facilities relevant to commercializing this technology.

Written responses should be directed to:

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Industrial Partnerships Office

P.O. Box 808, L-795

Livermore, CA 94551-0808

Attention: FBO 357-17

Please provide your written statement within thirty (30) days from the date this announcement is published to ensure consideration of your interest in LLNL's Polyelectrolyte Enabled Liftoff (PEEL) technology.

Please consult the list of document viewers if you cannot open a file.
Fiogure 1
Other (Draft RFPs/RFIs, Responses to Questions, etc..)
Fiogure 1
Posted Date:
October 2, 2017
Figure_1.docx (474.27 Kb)
Description: A 15 nm film of PVF polymer stretched across a 5-mm hoop supports a steel ball that weighs 30 mg, more than 80,000 the mass of the polymer film.
Figure 2
Other (Draft RFPs/RFIs, Responses to Questions, etc..)
Figure 2
Posted Date:
October 2, 2017
Figure_2.docx (4,444.88 Kb)
Description: In the liftoff step of the PEEL process, a polymer thin film (outlined in black to guide the eye) is seen delaminating from a silicon wafer and floating to the top of a water bath
Contracting Office Address :
7000 East Avenue
Livermore, California 94550
Primary Point of Contact. :
Connie L Pitcock
Phone: 925-422-1072
Fax: 925-423-8988


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