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Nanoscale. 2014 Feb 21;6(4):2194-200. doi: 10.1039/c3nr04214f. Epub 2014 Jan 2.

Solution self-assembly and phase transformations of form II crystals in nanoconfined poly(3-hexyl thiophene) based rod-coil block copolymers.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, National Taiwan University, No. 1, Roosevelt Rd. Sec. 4, Taipei 106, Taiwan.


Solution processing of π-conjugated polymers constitutes a major low-cost manufacturing method for the fabrication of many new organic optoelectronic devices. The solution self-assembly kinetics of π-conjugated rod-coil block copolymers of symmetric poly(3-hexyl thiophene)-b-poly(2-vinyl pyridine) (P3HT-P2VP) during drying and the phase transformations of the subsequently dried samples were studied by using a combination of TEM, SAXS, WAXS and DSC measurements. During solution drying in chlorobenzene, a good solvent for the copolymer, P3HT-P2VP first formed nanoseed aggregates followed by the directional growth of nanofibrils driven by the formation of prevailing form II P3HT crystals within its nanofibril core confined by the surrounding domain of P2VP blocks. This result was in sharp contrast when a similar molecular weight P3HT homopolymer was solution self-assembled in chlorobenzene, nearly free from confinement, in which case the resulting nanofibrils consisted of a mixture of majority form I and form II crystals. Solvent-cast films of P3HT-P2VP nanofibrils with form II crystals were heat-/cold-treated and showed solid-state phase transformations from form II crystals to form I crystals, both within nanofibrils with annealing, indicating the metastability of the form II crystals with temperature. A disordered state followed with increasing temperatures which, when cooled, induced the formation of a thermodynamically stable lamellar phase with only form I P3HT crystals. Correspondingly, the study provides new strategies for controlling polymorphs and nanostructures of π-conjugated block copolymers for future applications using solution processing and subsequent heat treatment.

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