Modification of surfaces using grafted polymers : a self consistent field theory study
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This research focuses on the modeling of surfaces decorated by grafted polymers in order to understand their structure, energetics, and phase behavior. The systems studied include flat and curved surfaces, grafted homopolymers and random copolymers, and in the presence of solvent conditions, homopolymer melt conditions, and diblock copolymer melt conditions. We use self-consistent field theory to study these systems, thereby furthering the development of new tools especially applicable in describing curved particle systems and systems with chemical polydispersity. We study a polymer-grafted spherical particle interacting with a bare particle in a good solvent as a model system for a polymer-grafted drug interacting with a blood protein in vivo. We calculate the energy of interaction between the two particles as a function of grafting density, particle sizes, and particle curvature by solving the self-consistent field equations in bispherical coordinates. Also, we compare our results to those predicted by the Derjaguin approximation. We extend the previous study to describe the case of two grafted particles interacting in a polymer melt composed of chains that are chemically the same as the grafts, especially in the regime where the particle curvature is significant. This is expected to have ramifications for the dispersion of particles in a polymer nanocomposite. We quantify the interfacial width between the grafted and free polymers and explore its correlation to the interactions between the particles, and use simple scaling theories to justify our results. In collaboration with experimentalists, we study the behavior of the glass transition of polystyrene (PS) films on grafted PS substrates. Using the self consistent field theory methods described above as well as a percolation model, we rationalize the behavior of the glass transition as a function of film thickness, chain lengths, and grafting density. Grafting chemically heterogeneous polymers to surfaces in melt and thin film conditions is also relevant for both particle dispersion and semiconductor applications. To study such systems, we model a random copolymer brush in a melt of homopolymer that is chemically identical to one of the blocks. We modify the self-consistent field theory to take into account the chemical polydispersity of random copolymer systems and use it to calculate interfacial widths and energies as well as to make predictions about the window in which perpendicular morphologies of diblock copolymer are likely to form. We also explore the effect of the rearrangement of the chain ends on the surface energy and use this concept to create a simple modified strong stretching theory that qualitatively agrees with our numerical self-consistent field theory results. We explicitly study the system that is most relevant to semiconductor applications - that of a diblock copolymer melt on top of a substrate modified by a random copolymer brush. We explore the morphologies formed as a function of film thickness, grafting density, chain length, and chain blockiness, and make predictions about the effect of these on the neutral window, that is, the range of brush volume fractions over which perpendicular lamellae are expected to occur.