Self assembly and shear induced morphologies of asymmetric block copolymers with spherical domains
Microphase separated block copolymers have been subject of investigation for past two decades. While most of the work is focused on classical phases of lamellae or cylinders, spherical phases have received less attention. The present study deals with the self-assembly in spherical phases of block copolymers that results into formation of a three-dimensional cubic lattice. A model triblock copolymer with several transition temperatures is chosen. Solidification in this model system results from either the arrangement of nanospheres of minor block on a BCC lattice or by formation of physical network where the nanospheres act as crosslinks. The solid-like behavior is characterized by extremely slow relaxation modes.
Long time stress relaxation of the model material was examined to distinguish between the solid and liquid behavior. Stress relaxation data from a conventional rheometer was extended to very long times by using a newly built instrument, Relaxometer. The BCC lattice structure of the material behaves as liquid over long time except at low temperatures where an equilibrium modulus is observed. This long time behavior was extended to low shear rate behavior using steady shear rheology. The zero shear viscosity observed at extremely low shear rates has a very high value that is close to the viscosity calculated from stress relaxation experiments. The steady shear viscosity decreases by several orders of magnitude over a small range of shear rates. SAXS experiments on samples sheared even at very low rates indicated loss of the BCC order that was present in the annealed samples before shearing.
In the second part, response of the BCC microstructure to large stress was explored. Shearing at constant rate and with LAOS at low frequencies lead to destruction of BCC lattice. The structure recovers upon cessation of the shear with kinetics similar to the one following thermal quench. Under certain conditions, LAOS leads to formation of monodomain textures. At low frequencies, there exists an upper and lower bound on strain amplitude where mono-domain textures can be obtained. Upon alignment, the modulus drops by about 30%. Measurement of rheological properties offers an indirect method to distinguish between polycrystalline structure and monodomain texture.
0794: Materials science