Block copolymer-based nanoproducts including particles, fibers and films show promise in high-end applications including nanotemplating, nanolithography, and nanoporous membranes due to their advantageous self-assembled structure. However, few studies probe the nanofabrication process in detail and monitor the concomitant self-assembled structural transitions. Herein, time-resolved small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) is exploited to follow such nanostructural changes. Evaporation-induced casting, electrospraying or electrospinning, followed by a final solvent vapor annealing step, have been used to create a series of nanoproducts with reversibly tunable morphologies from a model block copolymer, polystyrene-b-poly(ethylene-co-butylene)-b-polystyrene (SEBS). During evaporation-induced casting, which is considered as an unconfined system, a selective (co)solvent system composed of tetrahydrofuran (THF) and dimethylformamide (DMF) can lead to the formation of various SEBS structures. For DMF-based unconfined systems, the final SEBS lamellar structures were found to be different from the structure formed from THF only, demonstrating the critical role of solvent selection in evaporation-induced casting. The comparison of SEBS electrospun fibers reveals the unique and complex self-assembled structural transition occurring in a confined system. Time-resolved SAXS studies of our model triblock copolymer provide guidelines for a more general approach to access various nanostructures from self-assembling block copolymers.
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- Block copolymers
- Time-resolved SAXS