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Langmuir. 2006 Aug 29;22(18):7855-60.

Side-chain-grafted random copolymer brushes as neutral surfaces for controlling the orientation of block copolymer microdomains in thin films.

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  • 1Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Random copolymers of P(S-r-MMA-r-HEMA)s with a distribution of surface reactive hydroxyl groups were synthesized to formulate neutral surface layers on a SiO2 substrate. The layers were designed to drive vertical orientation of lamellar microdomains in a top P(S-b-MMA) thin film. Copolymers with a styrene weight fraction (f(St)) of 0.58 and a HEMA fraction (f(HEMA)) ranging from 0.01 to 0.03, with a corresponding MMA fraction (f(MMA)) ranging from 0.41 to 0.39, in the P(S-r-MMA-r-HEMA) copolymer showed neutral surface characteristics. The morphology of block copolymer thin films was studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). P(S-r-MMA-r-HEMA) copolymers prepared by both living and classical free-radical polymerizations were equally effective in demonstrating the neutrality of the surface. These side-chain-grafted random copolymer brushes showed faster grafting kinetics than the end-chain-grafted P(S-r-MMA) because of multipoint attachment to the surface. The modified surfaces had a very thin layer of random copolymer brush (5-7 nm), which is desirable for effective pattern transfer. Furthermore, neutral surfaces could be obtained even when the grafting time was reduced to 3 h. These results indicate that the composition of the random copolymer brush, rather than its PDI or molecular weights, is the most important factor in controlling the neutrality of the surface. These results also demonstrate the feasibility of using a third comonomer (C) in the random copolymer brush P(A-r-B-r-C) to alter the interfacial and surface energies of a diblock copolymer (A-b-B).

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