Three sets of a new class of low surface tension block copolymers were synthesized consisting of a poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) block and a poly(perfluorooctylethyl acrylate) (AF8) block. The polymers were prepared using a bromo-terminated PDMS macroinitiator, to which was attached an AF8 block grown using atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) in such a designed way that the molecular weight and composition of the two polymer blocks were regularly varied. The interplay of both the phase separated microstructure and the mesomorphic character of the fluorinated domains with their effect on surface structure was evaluated using a suite of analytical tools. Surfaces of spin-coated and thermally annealed films were assessed using a combination of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) studies. Both atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements and grazing incidence small angle X-ray scattering (GISAXS) studies were carried out to evaluate the microstructure of the thin films. Even in block copolymers in which the PDMS block was the majority component, a significant presence of the lower surface energy AF8 block was detected at the film surface. Moreover, the perfluorooctyl helices of the AF8 repeat units were highly oriented at the surface in an ordered, tilted smectic structure, which was compared with those of the bulk powder samples using wide-angle X-ray powder diffraction (WAXD) studies. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.