Shear-induced alignment in block copolymer solutions
Gabi Cantea (12/2005)
Support: Volker Abetz
PhD thesis with Prof. Dr. Volker Abetz
The alignment of the ordered microdomains of block copolymers in solution has been accomplished by using mechanical shear fields. Two pathways to monitore the achievement of aligned structures have been used: rheo-optical and in situ rheo-SAXS methods. The AC diblock copolymer and ABC triblock terpolymer with high molecular weights and different morphologies were synthesized via anionic polymerization and the alignment has been monitored from the solutions of neat AC diblock, ABC triblock and their blend in a non-volatile solvent.
Before proceeding to the alignment protocols the thermodynamics of the diblock copolymer solutions has been studied by rheological means. The slightly asymmetric diblock copolymer polystyrene-b-poly(t-butyl methacrylate) (ST) as solutions at different concentrations was investigated by scanning of moduli over a range of temperatures and the morphological transitions were detected. This led us to conclude that dioctyl phthalate is a selective solvent for this diblock copolymer (ST) and a transition from the initially lamellar toward a cylindrical or spherical morphology takes place before order-disorder transition. A route to check the induced asymmetry due to the solvent selectivity was accomplished by applying the Leibler dilution approximation theory. While for the less asymmetric diblock copolymer ST(72K) the dilution approximation theory could be approached, for the higher asymmetric ST(117K) a failure of the theory has been encountered. For the system ST(72K) where the theory was still valid, as a result an expression for the interaction parameter has been developed.
The alignment kinetics were performed first by making use of the rheooptical method and the monitored retardation was further used for calculation of birefringence. A perfectly symmetric diblock ST with high molecular weight (100K) as solution in dioctyl phthalate was used for the alignment protocols. Previous investigation of such system did not show any order-order transition, thus for this particular symmetric diblock the same lamellar morphology was preserved in the swollen state. Over a wide range of frequencies and strain amplitudes the monitored birefringence was always positive meaning a perpendicular alignment with the normals of lamellae along the vorticity axis and perpendicular on the plane formed between flow direction and gradient velocity axes. This prefered alignment has been explained due to the low viscoelastic contrast between the polystyrene and poly(t-butyl methacrylate) blocks which did not allow the sliding toward a parallel alignment found for systems with a large viscoelastic contrast. Thus, choosing an appropriate chemical sequence of blocks a selective type of macroscopic alignment by LAOS can be achieved.
The introduction of the third elastomeric block between the thermoplastic outer blocks (S and T), namely SBT triblock terpolymer, lead to significant changes in terms of alignment in the sense of tunable intermediate (perpendicular and transverse) aligned states which finally led to the same final parallel orientation in the diluted state. The in situ rheo-SAXS method applied to the same system elucidated the intermediate mechanism leading to a final parallel aligned state such as a coexistence of parallel and perpendicular states which gave rise to a transverse alignment in rheooptical method. As a finally aligned state resulting from in situ rheo-SAXS in oscillatory mode the perpendicular one was found within a short time scale (1h), while the rheooptical method revealed a perpendicular state at short time scale (1h) and parallel state at long time scale (10h). Finally, the investigation of the lamellar non-centrosymmetric blend SBT:ST=60:40 allowed preferential parallel alignment above a critical strain amplitude instead below the critical strain amplitude only perpendicular alignment is achieved.
While the rheooptical method applied to a bcc morphology of a solution of SBM triblock terpolymer in DOP did not give evidence for an induced morphological transition, in situ rheo-SAXS was a powerful tool to illustrate such a transition.
Moreover, we have shown that more complicated morphologies like knitting pattern of SEBM (as cast film from chloroform) which reveals a bcc morphology as a solution in DOP could be investigated and macroscopically aligned via in situ rheo-SAXS while the rheooptical method could not be used due to the non transparent system. The induced columnar structure could be monitored in 2D SAXS patterns which have never been reported before.
In summary, it was demonstrated that mechanical field alignment of block copolymer domains in solution allowed to generate highly anisotropic structures even for block copolymers with high molecular weights under ambient conditions and for a large variety of morphologies.