Structure of microemulsion - ABA triblock copolymer networks
Forskningsoutput: Tidskriftsbidrag › Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Structural equilibrium properties of transient networks formed by microemulsion droplets and ABA triblock copolymers in solution have been studied by Monte Carlo simulation. The droplets were represented by soft spheres, and the polymers were represented by junctions connected by harmonic bonds with an angular potential regulating the intrinsic chain stiffness. The interaction parameters were selected such that the end A-blocks were localized inside the droplets and the middle B-block in the continuous phase. The influence of (i) the polymer concentration, (ii) the polymer stiffness, and (iii) the contour length of the middle B-block on the formation and the structure of the microemulsion-polymer network were investigated using polymer end-to-end separation probability distribution functions, droplet radial distribution functions, droplet-droplet nearest-neighbor probability distribution functions, and network connectivity indicators. An increase of the polymer-droplet number ratio had a strong impact on the network formation. Under typical conditions and at an intermediate polymer-droplet number ratio, (i) the fraction of polymers forming bridges between droplets increased from essentially zero to unity and (ii) the fraction of polymers that were forming loops decreased as the ratio of the polymer end-to-end separation and the surface-to-surface separation between neighboring droplets for a hypothetical homogeneous droplet distribution was increased from 0.5 to 2. For long and flexible polymers, a mesoscopic segregation triggered by a depletion attraction between droplets appeared, and, furthermore, for sufficiently stiff chains, only bridge conformations occurred. The percolation probability could be represented as a function of the average droplet cluster size only, across all systems.