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Tuning Pore Dimensions of Mesoporous Inorganic Films by Homopolymer Swelling

Reid, Barry; Alvarez-Fernandez, Alberto; Schmidt-Hansberg, Benjamin; Guldin, Stefan

By 27 January 2020No Comments

Langmuir, 2019, vol 35, 43, pp. 14074-14082



The functionality and applications of mesoporous inorganic films are closely linked to their mesopore dimensions. For material architectures derived from a block copolymer (BCP) micelle coassembly, the pore size is typically manipulated by changing the molecular weight corresponding to the pore-forming block. However, bespoke BCP synthesis is often a costly and time-consuming process. An alternative method for pore size tuning involves the use of swelling agents, such as homopolymers (HPs), which selectively interact with the core-forming block to increase the micelle size in solution. In this work, poly(isobutylene)-block-poly(ethylene oxide) micelles were swollen with poly(isobutylene) HP in solution and coassembled with aluminosilicate sol with the aim of increasing the resulting pore dimensions. An analytical approach implementing spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE) and ellipsometric porosimetry (EP) alongside atomic force microscopy (AFM) and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) in transmission and grazing-incidence (GISAXS) modes enabled us to study the material evolution from solution processing through the manifestation of the mesoporous inorganic film after BCP removal. The in-depth SE/EP analysis evidenced an increase of more than 45% in mesopore diameter with HP swelling and a consistent scaling of the overall void volume and number of pores. Importantly, our analytical toolbox enabled us to study the effect of swelling on the connecting necks between adjacent pores, with observed increases as high as ?35%, offering novel pathways to sensing, electrochemical, and other mass-transfer-dependent applications.

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