Researchers discover a new phase in block copolymers

phys.org | 1/4/2011 | Staff
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All matter consists of one or more phases—regions of space with uniform structure and physical properties. The common phases of H2O (solid, liquid and gas), also known as ice, water and steam, are well known. Similarly, though less familiar, perhaps, polymeric materials also can form different solid or liquid phases that determine their properties and ultimate utility. This is especially true of block copolymers, the self-assembling macromolecules created when a polymer chain of one type ("Block A") is chemically connected with that of a different type ("Block B").

"If you want a block copolymer that has a certain property, you pick the right phase for a given application of interest," explained Chris Bates, an assistant professor of materials in the UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering. "For the rubber in shoes, you want one phase; to make a membrane, you want a different one."

Phases - Block - Copolymers - Phase - Bates

Only about five phases have been discovered in the simplest block copolymers. Finding a new phase is rare, but Bates and a team of other UC Santa Barbara researchers including professors Glenn Fredrickson (chemical engineering) and Craig Hawker (materials), Morgan Bates, staff scientist and assistant director for technology at the Dow Materials Institute at UCSB, and postdoctoral researcher Joshua Lequieu, have done just that.

Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Months - Morgan - Bates - Work - Polymers

About 12 months ago, Morgan Bates was doing some experimental work on polymers she had synthesized in the lab, in an effort, she said, "to understand the fundamental parameters that govern self-assembly of block copolymers by examining what happens when you tweak block chemistry."

There are endless possibilities for the chemistry of "A" and "B" blocks, according to Chris Bates. "Modern synthetic chemistry allows us to pick basically any type of A polymer and connect it with a different B block," he said. "Given...
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