Chain Redistribution Stabilizes Coexistence Phases in Block Copolymer Blends

S Bae and KG Yager, ACS NANO (2022).

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.2c07448

The nanoscale morphologies of block copolymer (BCP) thin films are determined by chain architecture. Experimental studies of thin film blends of different BCP chain types have demonstrated that blending can stabilize new motifs, such as coexistence phases. Here, we deploy coarse grained molecular dynamics (MD) simulations in order to better understand the self-assembly behavior of BCP blend thin films. We consider blends of lamella-and cylinder-forming BCP chains, studying their morphological makeup, the chain distribution within the morphology, and the underlying polymer chain conformations. Our simulations show that there are local concentration deviations at the scale of the morphological objects that dictate the local structure, and that BCP chains redistribute within the morphology so as to stabilize the structure. Underlying these effects are measurable distortions in the BCP chain conformations. The conformational freedom afforded by BCP blending stabilizes defects and allows coexistence phases to appear, while also leading to kinetic trapping effects. These results highlight the power of blending in designing the morphology that forms.

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