We study a model of flexible block copolymers (BCPs) in which there is an enlthalpic preference for orientational order, or local alignment, among like-block segments. We describe a generalization of the self-consistent field theory of flexible BCPs to include inter-segment orientational interactions via a Landau-de Gennes free energy associated with a polar or nematic order parameter for segments of one component of a diblock copolymer. We study the equilibrium states of this model numerically, using a pseudo-spectral approach to solve for chain conformation statistics in the presence of a self-consistent torque generated by inter-segment alignment forces. Applying this theory to the structure of lamellar domains composed of symmetric diblocks possessing a single block of “self-aligning” polar segments, we show the emergence of spatially complex segment order parameters (segment director fields) within a given lamellar domain. Because BCP phase separation gives rise to spatially inhomogeneous orientation order of segments even in the absence of explicit intra-segment aligning forces, the director fields of BCPs, as well as thermodynamics of lamellar domain formation, exhibit a highly non-linear dependence on both the inter-block segregation (χN) and the enthalpy of alignment (ε). Specifically, we predict the stability of new phases of lamellar order in which distinct regions of alignment coexist within the single mesodomain and spontaneously break the symmetries of the lamella (or smectic) pattern of composition in the melt via in-plane tilt of the director in the centers of the like-composition domains. We further show that, in analogy to Freedericksz transition confined nematics, the elastic costs to reorient segments within the domain, as described by the Frank elasticity of the director, increase the threshold value ε needed to induce this intra-domain phase transition.
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Research Article| May 04 2018
Intradomain phase transitions in flexible block copolymers with self-aligning segments
Christopher J. Burke ;
Christopher J. Burke, Gregory M. Grason; Intradomain phase transitions in flexible block copolymers with self-aligning segments. J. Chem. Phys. 7 May 2018; 148 (17): 174905. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5025809
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