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Langmuir. 2005 Mar 15;21(6):2356-63.

Interfacial reactions in confinement: kinetics and temperature dependence of the surface hydrolysis of polystyrene-block-poly(tert-butyl acrylate) thin films.

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MESA Institute for Nanotechnology and Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Materials Science and Technology of Polymers, University of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands.


The effect of confinement on the kinetics of the surface hydrolysis of polystyrene-block-poly(tert-butyl acrylate) (PS(n)-b-PtBA(m)) thin films on oxidized silicon substrates in 3 M aqueous hydrochloric acid was systematically investigated. As shown by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and contact angle measurements, a skin layer of acid-sensitive PtBA is present on the surface of PS(n)-b-PtBA(m) films, consistent with the lower surface tension of PtBA compared to that of PS. The thickness of the skin layer was determined by angle-dependent XPS as approximately 8 nm for PS(690)-b-PtBA(1210). Tapping mode atomic force microscopy showed an increasing surface coverage of swollen poly(acrylic acid)-rich globules with increasing hydrolysis time. Using ex situ Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, the reaction kinetics was determined quantitatively as a function of temperature, polymer film thickness, thermal pretreatment of the films, and block copolymer composition. The initial stages of the hydrolysis can be described as a pseudo-first-order reaction under all conditions investigated. The corresponding rate constants were found to be 2 orders of magnitude lower than those reported for the hydrolysis of tert-butyl acetate in solution and depended linearly on the fraction of PtBA exposed at the surface. However, the polymer film thickness, thermal pretreatment of the films, block copolymer composition, and local composition did not affect the rate constants. The negative value of the activation entropy (DeltaS(298)++ = -103 J/mol K), determined according to the Arrhenius equation and transition state theory, indicates that the tightness of the transition state is more pronounced in the PS(n)-b-PtBA(m) film compared to reactions in solution. Thus, the spatial constraints due to the incorporation of the reactive ester groups in thin polymer films are responsible for the observed reduced reactivity.

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