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J Chem Phys. 2005 Dec 1;123(21):214903.

Phase behavior of a blend of polymer-tethered nanoparticles with diblock copolymers.

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Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Research Laboratory, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.


Using the self-consistent field theory (SCFT), we investigate the phase behavior of a mixture of diblock copolymers and nanoparticles with monodisperse polymer chains tethered to their surfaces. We assume the size of the nanoparticles to be much smaller than that of the attached polymer chains and therefore model the particles with their grafted polymer "shell" as star polymers. The polymer chains attached to the particles are of the same species as one of the blocks of the symmetric diblock copolymer. Of primary interest is how to tune the shell of the particle by changing both the length and number of tethered polymers in order to achieve higher loading of nanoparticles within an ordered structure without macrophase separation occurring. We find that the phase behavior of the system is very sensitive to the size of the particle including its tethered shell. The region of microphase separation is increased upon decreasing the star polymer size, which may be achieved by shortening and/or removing tethered polymer chains. To explore the possible structures in these systems we employ SCFT simulations that provide insight into the arrangement of the different species in these complex composites.

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