|Khazimullin, M.; Müller, T.; Messlinger, S.; Rehberg, I.; Schöpf, W.; Krekhov, A.; Pettau, R.; Kreger, K.; Schmidt, H.-W.: Gel formation in a mixture of a block copolymer and a nematic liquid crystal, Physical Review E 84(2), 021710-1-021710-11 (2011) -- DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.84.021710|
The viscoelastic properties of a binary mixture of a mesogenic side-chain block copolymer in a low molecular weight nematic liquid crystal are studied for mass concentrations ranging from the diluted regime up to a liquid crystalline gel state at about 3%. In the gel state, the system does not flow, exhibits a polydomain structure on a microscopic level, and strongly scatters light. Below the gelation point, the system is homogeneous and behaves like a usual nematic, so the continuum theory of liquid crystals can be applied for interpreting the experimental data. Using the dynamic Fréedericksz transition technique, the dependence of the splay elastic constant and the rotational viscosity on the polymer concentration have been obtained. Comparing the dynamic behavior of block copolymer solutions with the respective homopolymer solutions reveals that, above a mass concentration of 1%, self-assembling of the block copolymer chain segments in clusters occurred, resulting in a gel state at higher concentrations. The effective cluster size is estimated as a function of the concentration, and a scaling-law behavior near the sol-gel transition is confirmed. This technique may serve as an alternative method for determining the gelation point.