skip to main content


Title: Symmetry breaking in particle-forming diblock polymer/homopolymer blends

Compositionally asymmetric diblock copolymers provide an attractive platform for understanding the emergence of tetragonally close-packed, Frank–Kasper phases in soft matter. Block-polymer phase behavior is governed by a straightforward competition between chain stretching and interfacial tension under the constraint of filling space at uniform density. Experiments have revealed that diblock copolymers with insufficient conformational asymmetry to form Frank–Kasper phases in the neat-melt state undergo an interconversion from body-centered cubic (bcc) close-packed micelles to a succession of Frank–Kasper phases (σ to C14 to C15) upon the addition of minority-block homopolymer in the dry-brush regime, accompanied by the expected transition from bcc to hexagonally packed cylinders in the wet-brush regime. Self-consistent field theory data presented here qualitatively reproduce the salient features of the experimental phase behavior. A particle-by-particle analysis of homopolymer partitioning furnishes a basis for understanding the symmetry breaking from the high-symmetry bcc phase to the lower-symmetry Frank–Kasper phases, wherein the reconfiguration of the system into polyhedra of increasing volume asymmetry delays the onset of macroscopic phase separation.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1719692
NSF-PAR ID:
10169247
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume:
117
Issue:
29
ISSN:
0027-8424
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 16764-16769
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    A series of thermally processable, phase-separating diblock copolymers made via sequential ATRP of styrene and styrenic ionic liquid (IL) monomers with various alkyl imidazolium substituents were synthesized to cover a wide range of volume fractions, most notably those on the IL-rich side of the phase diagram. Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) analysis was used to confirm melt-state (and glassy state) phase behavior in which all four classic equilibrium diblock copolymer morphologies – body-centered cubic spheres (S BCC ), hexagonally packed cylinders (Hex), lamellae (Lam), and notably, bicontinuous gyroid (Gyr) – were observed. These PS-PIL diblock copolymers were found to have a high degree of conformational asymmetry and/or electrostatic cohesion within the PIL block, highlighted by the shift of the Lam phase window with boundaries falling between f PIL = 0.31 and 0.55. Variation of the alkyl group appeared to influence the strength of the Flory-like interaction parameter of the system, χ PS/PIL , such that simple substitution of methyl by n -butyl on the imidazolium IL substituent resulted in the emergence of the (notoriously segregation-sensitive) Gyr phase, superseding the persistent coexistence of Lam and Hex in the methyl-substituted imidazolium diblock copolymer phase diagram. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT: Hydration of the amphiphilic diblock oligomer C16H33(CH2CH2O)20OH (C16E20) leads to concentration-dependent formation of micellar body-centered cubic (BCC) and Frank− Kasper A15 lyotropic liquid crystals (LLCs). Quiescent thermal annealing of aqueous LLCs comprising 56−59 wt % C16E20 at 25 °C after quenching from high temperatures established their ability to form short-lived BCC phases, which transform into long-lived, transient Frank−Kasper σ phases en route to equilibrium A15 morphologies on a time scale of months. Here, the frequency and magnitude of applied oscillatory shear show the potential to either dynamically stabilize the metastable BCC phase at low frequencies or increase the rate of formation of the A15 to minutes at high frequencies. Time-resolved synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering (TR-SAXS) provides in situ characterization of the structures during shear and thermal processing. This work shows that the LLC morphology and order−order phase transformation rates can be controlled by tuning the shear strain amplitude and frequency. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Designed multiblock copolymers with complex architectures offer unlimited opportunities to obtain novel nanostructured phases, however, their synthesis could be challenging and expensive. An alternative approach to access desired nanostructures is to use blends of block copolymers with simple chain architectures and designed block‐block interactions. We use binary blends composed of AB and CD diblock copolymers as a model system to establish design principles of polymeric blends containing block copolymers. Specifically, we explore the phase behavior of AB/CD blends by using the polymeric self‐consistent field theory to construct phase diagrams of the blends focusing on the sphere‐forming regions in the phase space. We predict the formation of various spherical packing phases composed of either core‐shell‐structured spheres or binary spheres resembling metallic alloys. We demonstrate that the equilibrium morphology can be regulated by adjusting the blend composition and molecular parameters such as block fractions, conformational asymmetry, and segment‐segment interactions. The strategy of using secondary interaction in polymeric blends to control the phase behavior explored in the current study can also be generalized to other soft matter systems.

     
    more » « less
  4. Self-consistent field theory is employed to compute the phase behavior of binary blends of conformationally asymmetric, micelle-forming diblock copolymers with miscible corona blocks and immiscible core blocks (a diblock copolymer “alloy”). The calculations focus on establishing conditions that promote the formation of Laves phases by tuning the relative softness of the cores of the two different Laves phase particles via independent control of their conformational asymmetries. Increasing the conformational asymmetry of the more spherical particles of the Laves structure has a stabilizing effect, consistent with the expectations of increased imprinting of the Wigner–Seitz cells on the core/corona interface as conformational asymmetry increases. The resulting phase diagram in the temperature-blend composition space features a more stable Laves phase field than that predicted for conformationally symmetric systems. The phase field closes at low temperatures in favor of macrophase separation between a hexagonally-packed cylinder (hex) phase and a body-centered cubic phase. Companion calculations, using an alloy whose components do not produce a hex phase in the neat melt state, suggest that the Laves phase field in such a blend will persist at strong segregation. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The random copolymerization of norbornene‐functionalized macromonomers was explored as a method of synthesizing mixed‐graft block copolymers (mGBCPs). The copolymerization kinetics of a model system of polystyrene (PS) and poly(lactic acid) (PLA) macromonomers was first analyzed, revealing a gradient composition of side chains along the mGBCP backbone. The phase separation behavior of mGBCPs with PS and PLA side chains of various backbone lengths and side chain molar ratios was investigated, and increasing the backbone length was found to stabilize the phase‐separated nanostructures. The graft architecture was also demonstrated to improve the processability of the mGBCP, compared to a linear counterpart. Investigations of mGBCPs comprised of polydimethylsiloxane and poly(ethylene oxide) side chains exemplified the diverse self‐assembled morphologies, including a Frank‐Kasper A15 phase, that can be obtained with mGBCPs synthesized by random copolymerization of macromonomers. Lastly, a ternary mGBCP was synthesized by the copolymerization of three macromonomers.

     
    more » « less