The radioactive ion implantation wear measuring method (RII) has been used for many years as a tool to make highly sensitive real-time in-situ measurements of wear and corrosion in metallic or ceramic materials. The method consists of the controlled implantation of radioactive ions of limited decay time in a thin layer at the surface of the material. The progressive abrasion of the material results in a decline in radioactivity which is followed to monitor material losses.
The application of RII to control the wear of polymers is potentially of interest, but it has been lagging behind because of uncertainties related to possible changes in material properties during and after the implantation, and to the exact shape of implantation profiles. In this thesis, we investigate these issues on two thermoplastic elastomers, among which one contains radiation-sensitive unsaturated bonds, using as ions 7Be, 7Li and Kr. The results of the sample characterisation indicate that the 7Be and 7Li implantations, under properly-selected conditions, do not induce significant modifications in the materials. The implantation of a stack of polymer thin films and the activity measurements performed to determine the implantation profile are also presented. The experimental results on the ion implantation profiles and the determination of calibration curves are presented and discussed in comparison with simulated results. The results indicate that it is possible to predict the implantation profile by means of simulations. This bodes well for the application of the RII method to polymer materials.
An experimental study is presented regarding the possible redistribution of the implanted 7Be after implantation. Since very few existing experimental techniques are able to detect light elements implanted in polymer targets at fluences less or equal to 1012 cm-2, with implantation depths of a few µm, a new method is presented, which implies the use of plasma etching techniques in order to remove layers of polymers and measuring the remaining activity after each step. Our results indicate that a redistribution of the implanted ions takes place during the implantation process, resulting in a scrambling of the initial implantation profile. Nevertheless, provided a suitable methodology be used, wear measurements in polymers by using the RII method are still possible, as we propose in the thesis.