Emergence of ordered network mesophases in kinetic pathways of order–order transition for linear ABC triblock terpolymers
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Applying the string method to the self-consistent field theory (SCFT) of ABC linear triblock copolymers, we developed a new strategy to design kinetic pathways for the formation of stable or metastable network mesophases in order-order transition (OOT) processes. The design principle regarding the kinetic pathways between distinct mesophases is based on the matching relationships of both domain spacing and dominant Fourier components of the density distributions. The results suggest that complex ordered network mesophases, such as alternating diamond (DA) and alternating plumber's nightmare (PA) could be obtained in kinetic pathways between simple phases covering lamellae, cylinders and spheres. By virtue of the minimal free energy pathway (MEP) obtained, we could acquire the epitaxial relationship and phase transition mechanism. Furthermore, we managed to regulate the MEP by changing the block composition to adjust packing frustration. Two new metastable networks, core-shell five-pronged and six-pronged morphologies, were found in the kinetic pathways, further demonstrating the regulating mechanism. The results will contribute to a better understanding of the kinetic relationship between simple phases and complex networks, thus providing a platform for soft materials design via the OOT route and guiding experimental procedures to fabricate ordered network mesophases.
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