Directed phase separation of PFO: PS blends during spin-coating using feedback controlled in situ stroboscopic fluorescence microscopy

Daniel T.W. Toolan, Andrew J. Parnell, Paul D. Topham, Jonathan R. Howse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Uniform thin-films of polymer blends can be produced through spin-coating, which is used on an industrial scale for the production of light emitting diodes, and more recently organic photovoltaic devices. Here, we present the results of the direct observation, and control, over the phase separation of polystyrene and poly(9,9′-dioctylfluorene) during spin-coating using high speed stroboscopic fluorescence microscopy. This new approach, imaging the fluorescence, from a blend of fluorescent + non-fluorescent polymers allows for intensity to be directly mapped to composition, providing a direct determination of composition fluctuations during the spin-coating process. We have studied the compositional development and corresponding structural development for a range of compositions, which produce a range of different phase separated morphologies. We initially observe domains formed by spinodal decomposition, coarsening via Ostwald Ripening until an interfacial instability causes break-up of the bicontinuous morphology. Ostwald ripening continues, and depending upon composition a bicontinuous morphology is re-established. By observing compositional and morphological development in real-time, we are able to direct and control morphological structure development through control of the spin coating parameters via in situ feedback.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3587-3592
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry A
Issue number11
Early online date22 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2013


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