- Mesoscale Modeling of Phase Behavior in Thin Films of Cylinder-Forming ABA Block Copolymers (2008)
- In this thesis modeling results on structure formation in thin films of cylinder-forming block copolymers are presented and discussed. The computational study of the equilibrium phase behavior in thin films is complemented by detailed comparison with a real experimental system. Additionally, the dynamics in such films at various length and time scales (the dynamics of individual defects and the dynamics of surface relief structures) is studied. The strength of the presented thesis is the comparison of thin block copolymer film equilibrium and dynamic behavior in experiments and in computer simulations. This comparison supplies an in-depth understanding of the processes in thin films and near the surfaces in thick films and allows to identify the important control parameters of nanopattern formation. Chapters 4 and 5 report on the phase behavior of thin films of asymmetric block copolymers. In addition to the surface induced alignment of hexagonally ordered cylinders, an adjustment to the planar symmetry of the surface by formation of surface reconstructions is found to dominate the phase behavior in thin films. The large parameter space covered by the simulations allows to distinguish the effects of the two constraints characteristic for thin films: the surface field and the film thickness. The deviations from the bulk cylinder structure, both in the vicinity of surfaces and in thin films are identified as surface reconstructions. The stability regions of different phases are modulated by the film thickness via interference and confinement effects. The results give evidence of a general mechanism that govern the phase behavior in thin films of modulated phases: The interplay between the strength of the surface field and the deformability of the bulk structure determines how the system rearranges in the vicinity of the surface. Chapters 6 and 7 present a systematic study of defects in thin films of cylinder-forming block copolymers. In particular, the peculiarities of both classical and specific topological are considered in detail, and a strong relationship between the defect structures and the chain mobility in block copolymers is observed. In the systems studied, representative defect configurations provide connectivity of the minority phase in the form of dislocations with a closed cylinder end or classical disclinations with incorporated alternative, nonbulk structures with planar symmetry. In solvent-annealed films with enhanced chain mobility, the neck defects (bridges between parallel cylinders) were observed. This type of nonsingular defect has not been identified in block copolymer systems before. It is shown, that topological arguments and 2D defect representation, sufficient for lamellar systems, are not sufficient to determine the stability and mobility of defects in the cylindrical phase. In-situ scanning force microscopy measurements are compared with the simulations based on DDFT. The close match between experimental measurements and simulation results suggests that the lateral defect motion is diffusion-driven. Finally, the morphological evolution is considered with the focus on the motion and interaction of the representative defect configurations. Chapter 7 reveals dynamic simulations and in-situ SFM measurements of defect annihilation. Along with the lateral movement of defects, the annihilation frequently proceeds through local structural transitions. The role of the observed structural evolution is discussed in the context of the equilibrium phase behavior of cylinder-forming thin films, studied in chapters 4-5. Chapter 8 presents a study of terrace formation in thin films of a cylinder-forming block copolymers by a computational DDFT method. The results are compared with in situ SFM measurements of SBS block copolymer thin films. This chapter focuses on the early stage of terrace formation, where 80% of height changes occur. Experimental and simulation results agree that the change of the local height is strongly connected to the changes in the local microstructure. The detailed pathways of the structural transitions, as revealed by simulations, suggest a diffusion of block copolymer chains along the microstructure interfaces and indicate an important role of cylinders with necks as a material-transport-channel between neighboring terraces in thin cylinder-forming films. Both systems (in experiment and in simulations) show excellent quantitative agreement in detail of structural phase transitions and in the dynamics of the step development, suggesting that the underlying transport mechanisms are governed by diffusion.