Soft Confinement-Induced Morphologies of Diblock Copolymers
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The self-assembly of diblock copolymers under soft confinement is studied systematically using a simulated annealing method applied to a lattice model of polymers. The soft confinement is realized by the formation of polymer droplets in a poor solvent environment. Multiple sequences of soft confinement-induced copolymer aggregates with different shapes and self-assembled internal morphologies are predicted as functions of solvent-polymer interaction and the monomer concentration. It is discovered that the self-assembled internal morphology of the aggregates is largely controlled by a competition between the bulk morphology of the copolymer and the solvent-polymer interaction, and the shape of the aggregates can be non-spherical when the internal morphology is anisotropic and the solvent-polymer interaction is weak. These results demonstrate that droplets of diblock copolymers formed in poor solvents can be used as a model system to study the self-assembly of copolymers under soft confinement.
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