Bicontinuous Phases in Diblock Copolymer/Homopolymer Blends: Simulation and Self-Consistent Field Theory

Francisco J. Martínez-Veracoechea, Fernando A. Escobedo

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38 Scopus citations

Abstract

A combination of particle-based simulations and self-consistent field theory (SCFT) is used to study the stabilization of multiple ordered bicontinuous phases in blends of a diblock copolymer (DBC) and a homopolymer. The double-diamond phase (DD) and plumber's nightmare phase (P) were spontaneously formed in the range of homopolymer volume fraction simulated via coarse-grained molecular dynamics. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that such phases have been obtained in continuum-space molecular simulations of DBC systems. Though tentative phase boundaries were delineated via free-energy calculations, macrophase separation could not be satisfactorily assessed within the framework of particle-based simulations. Therefore, SCFT was used to explore the DBC/homopolymer phase diagram in more detail, showing that although in many cases two-phase coexistence of a DBC-rich phase and a homopolymer-rich phase does precede the stability of complex bicontinuous phases the DD phase can be stable in a relatively wide region of the phase diagram. Whereas the P phase was always metastable with respect to macrophase separation under the thermodynamic conditions explored with SCFT, it was sometimes nearly stable, suggesting that full stability could be achieved in other unexplored regions of parameter space. Moreover, even the predicted DD- and P-phase metastability regions were located significantly far from the spinodal line, suggesting that these phases could be observed in experiments as "long-lived" metastable phases under those conditions. This conjecture is also consistent with large-system molecular dynamics simulations that showed that the time scale of mesophase formation is much faster than that of macrophase separation. © 2009 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1775-1784
Number of pages10
JournalMacromolecules
Volume42
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 10 2009
Externally publishedYes

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