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- Equilibrium and Dynamic Phase Behavior in Thin Films of Cylinder-Forming Block Copolymers (2004)
- The equilibrium and dynamic phase behavior in thin films of cylinder-forming block copolymers has been studied. The results range from an extension of an advanced strong segregation theory to the treatment of cylindrical microdomains in a thin film, over the detailed analysis of the phase behavior and the microdomain dimensions of a cylinder forming model system, to the first in-situ measurements of phase transitions and microdomain dynamics in a thin block copolymer film. The first result concerns the characterization of thin films of the model system, a polystyrene-b-polybutadiene-b-polystyrene (SBS) triblock copolymer, by tapping mode scanning force microscopy (TM-SFM). We present a procedure to establish reliably with TM-SFM the true surface topography of a soft polymeric sample. The measurement of an array of amplitude phase distance (APD) curves enables us to distinguish quantitatively between the ¡°real¡± surface topography and lateral differences in tip indentation. We find that conventional TM-SFM height images are not necessarily reflecting the surface topography of the sample. In the case of SBS we find that the surface is flat and that conventional TM-SFM height images only reflect lateral differences of tip indention. A theoretical treatment of the phase behavior in thin films of cylinder forming block copolymers within an advanced strong segregation theory (SST) framework of Olmsted and Milner is developed. Although the theory is strictly valid only for highly stretched chains and does not account for minority domain structures other than cylinders, the predicted results are in good agreement to the experimental results in this thesis. The microdomain structures under consideration are in plane oriented cylinders terminating with either the matrix component CP or a half cylinder CH at the surface and cylinders oriented perpendicular to the film CS. The thin film phase behavior of concentrated solutions of SBS in chloroform is studied experimentally. The stable phases are mapped as a function of film thickness and polymer concentration phi. The variation of phi can be interpreted as a variation of the molecular interactions between the two polymer components and between the components and the boundary surfaces. The preferential attraction of the majority component to the surface, the surface field, causes the cylinders to align parallel to the plane of the film, whenever the thickness fits an integer multiple of cylinder layers. At intermediate thickness the cylinders align perpendicular to the film plane. At higher polymer concentration, i.e., at stronger surface fields, a perforated lamella (PL) of polystyrene forms. The surface field needed for PL formation increases with increasing film thickness. A wetting layer exists underneath all films, which either consists of pinned molecules or of a half lamella. Furthermore the principal microdomain spacings of the thin film microdomain structure are investigated in detail and compared to the SST results. A new image analysis algorithm provides the recognition and the localization of the different structures in the SFM phase contrast images. The microdomain spacings are discussed as a function of various parameters like the film thickness, the polymer concentration and the local curvature of the structure. An examination of the dependence of the spacing in the C¨U structure from the local curvature of the cylinders yields an effect of second order, which can be explained in terms of density conservation of the polymer blocks. The spacing of the CP structure also depends on the local thickness of the thin film. The CP phase is stable in a certain thickness range close to its preferred thickness. Within this range it has to adapt the cylinder "height" to be commensurable with the film thickness. Minimization of the interface between the blocks leads to a smaller or larger lateral cylinder spacing if the cylinder has to stretch or shrink its dimension perpendicular to the plane of the film, respectively. Finally the first in-situ observation of phase transitions in thin block copolymer films is presented. During annealing with a controlled atmosphere of chloroform vapor the film develops islands and holes. The development of the microdomain structure and its spacial fluctuations are captured. The rather high polymer concentration in the thin film results in a time scale of the fluctuations in the order of seconds to minutes. The decreasing film thickness inside of the holes triggers phase transitions from CS to CP to PL according to the phase diagram of the system.