Solvent Effect on the Self-Assembly of a Thin Film Consisting of Y-Shaped Copolymer.

Affiliation

College of Chemistry Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Zaozhuang University, Zaozhuang 277160, China. [Email]

Abstract

The self-assembly of an amphiphilic Y-shaped copolymer consisting of two hydrophilic branches and one hydrophobic branch in a thin film is investigated under different conditions by virtue of mesoscopic computer modelling, accompanied by doping with a single solvent, doping with a binary solvent, and those solvent environments together with the introduction of confinement defined by various acting distances and influencing regions. A cylindrical micellar structure is maintained, as it is in the thin film with the doping of either 10% hydrophobic solvent or 10% hydrophilic solvent, whose structure consists of the hydrophobic core and hydrophilic shell. Attributed to the hydrophobicity/hydrophilia nature of the solvents, different solvents play an obvious role on the self-assembled structure, i.e., the hydrophobic solvent presents as a swelling effect, conversely, the hydrophilic solvent presents as a shrinking effect. Further, the synergistic effect of the binary solvents on the self-assembly produces the lowest values in both the average volumetric size and free energy density when the quantity of hydrophobic solvent and hydrophilic solvent is equivalent. Interestingly, the solvent effect becomes more pronounced under the existent of a confinement. When a lateral-oriented confinement is introduced, a periodically fluctuating change in the cylindrical size occurs in two near-wall regions, but the further addition of either hydrophobic or hydrophilic solvent can effectively eliminate such resulting hierarchical-sized cylinders and generate uniform small-sized cylinders. However, with the introduction of a horizontal-orientated confinement, the copolymers self-assemble into the spherical micellar structure. Moreover, the further addition of hydrophobic solvent leads to a decrease in the average size of micelles via coalescence mechanism, in contrast, the further addition of hydrophilic solvent causes an increase in the average size of micelles via splitting mechanism. These findings enrich our knowledge of the potential for the solvent effect on the self-assembly of amphiphilic copolymer system, and then provide theoretical supports on improving and regulating the mesoscopic structure of nanomaterials.

Keywords

confinement,copolymer,self-assembly,solvent effect,thin film,

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