The influence of incompatibility and dielectric contrast on the electric field-induced orientation of lamellar block copolymers


We investigate the influence of incompatibility and dielectric contrast on the reorientation kinetics of concentrated solutions of lamellar block copolymers in the presence of an external DC electric field. We study solutions of AC diblock copolymer and ABC triblock terpolymers. The inclusion of a short, polar middle block B is used to tailor both the degree of incompatibility and the dielectric contrast between the two majority phases. In situ synchrotron radiation small-angle X-ray scattering is used to monitor the reorientation process. For the AC diblock copolymer sample only weak electric field induced reorientation could be achieved, following a very slow kinetics, whereas for the ABC triblock terpolymer, reorientation is observed above a threshold value of 0.3 kV/mm. The orientation kinetics is well described by a single exponential with characteristic time constants varying between a few seconds and several minutes depending on the polymer concentration and the electric field strength. We identify a narrow concentration window, in which the interplay between chain mobility and gain in free energy in the electric field allows the preparation of highly anisotropic bulk polymer samples by exposure to an electric field. The results are compared to free energy calculations revealing a distinct difference in the driving force for reorientation as a consequence of an increase in dielectric contrast and chain mobility upon introduction of the B middle block.
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