External electric fields align nanostructured block copolymers by either rotation of grains or nucleation and growth depending on how strongly the chemically distinct block copolymer components are segregated. In close vicinity to the order-disorder transition, theory and simulations suggest a third mechanism: selective disordering. We present a time-resolved small-angle X-ray scattering study that demonstrates how an electric field can indeed selectively disintegrate ill-aligned lamellae in a lyotropic block copolymer solution, while lamellae with interfaces oriented parallel to the applied field prevail. The present study adds an additional mechanism to the experimentally corroborated suite of mechanistic pathways, by which nanostructured block copolymers can align with an electric field. Our results further unveil the benefit of electric field assisted annealing for mitigating orientational disorder and topological defects in block copolymer mesophases, both in close vicinity to the order-disorder transition and well below it.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Materials Science
- General Engineering
- General Physics and Astronomy