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Nanotechnology. 2011 Jul 1;22(26):265710. doi: 10.1088/0957-4484/22/26/265710. Epub 2011 May 18.

Scanning transmission x-ray microscopy of polymer nanoparticles: probing morphology on sub-10 nm length scales.

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  • 1Centre for Organic Electronics, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.


Water-processable nanoparticle dispersions of semiconducting polymers offer an attractive approach to the fabrication of organic electronic devices since they offer: (1) control of nanoscale morphology and (2) environmentally friendly fabrication. Although the nature of phase segregation in these polymer nanoparticles is critical to device performance, to date there have been no techniques available to directly determine their intra-particle structure, which consequently has been poorly understood. Here, we present scanning transmission x-ray microscopy (STXM) compositional maps for nanoparticles fabricated from poly(9,9-dioctyl-fluorene-2,7-diyl-co-bis-N, N'-(4-butylphenyl)-bis-N, N'-phenyl-1,4-phenylenedi-amine) (PFB) and poly(9,9-dioctylfluorene-2,7-diyl-co-benzothiadiazole) (F8BT) 1:1 blend mixtures. The images show distinct phase segregation within the nanoparticles. The compositional data reveals that, within these nanoparticles, PFB and F8BT segregate into a core-shell morphology, with an F8BT-rich core and a PFB-rich shell. Structural modelling demonstrates that the STXM technique is capable of quantifying morphological features on a sub-10 nm length scale; below the spot size of the incident focused x-ray beam. These results have important implications for the development of water-based 'solar paints' fabricated from microemulsions of semiconducting polymers.

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