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Topological Effects Near Order–Disorder Transitions in Symmetric Diblock Copolymer Melts...

by Tom Herschberg, Jan Michael Y Carrillo, Bobby G Sumpter, Eleni Panagiotou, Rajeev Kumar
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The effects of polymer chain topology on the order–disorder transition of symmetric AB diblock copolymer melts are studied using coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations. Specifically, we compared chain conformations near the lamellar-disordered transition in melts of symmetric (i.e., 50–50) AB diblock copolymers of linear chains, rings, and trefoil knots at the same chain lengths. The order (lamellar)–disorder transition temperature and the domain sizes both shifted to lower values with the introduction of topological constraints, leading to the following sequence: linear chains > rings > trefoil knots. Investigation of the polymer chain conformations in terms of their radii of gyration, their writhe values (a measure for the degree of intertwining of a chain around itself), and their Jones polynomials (a method to measure entanglement of curves) showed that linear chains and rings remained stretched, while knots were stretched and tightened in disordered melts close to the lamellar-disorder transition. This work highlights chain topology as an important factor in affecting microphase separation in block copolymers.