Local distribution and orientation of anisotropic nanoparticles in microphase-separated symmetric diblock copolymers has been simulated using dissipative particle dynamics and analyzed with a molecular theory. It has been demonstrated that nanoparticles are characterized by a non-trivial orientational ordering in the lamellar phase due to their anisotropic interactions with isotropic monomer units. In the simulations, the maximum concentration and degree of ordering are attained for non-selective nanorods near the domain boundary. In this case, the nanorods have a certain tendency to align parallel to the interface in the boundary region and perpendicular to it inside the domains. Similar orientation ordering of nanoparticles located at the lamellar interface is predicted by the molecular theory which takes into account that the nanoparticles interact with monomer units via both isotropic and anisotropic potentials. Computer simulations enable one to study the effects of the nanorod concentration, length, stiffness, and selectivity of their interactions with the copolymer components on the phase stability and orientational order of nanoparticles. If the volume fraction of the nanorods is lower than 0.1, they have no effect on the copolymer transition from the disordered state into a lamellar microstructure. Increasing nanorod concentration or nanorod length results in clustering of the nanorods and eventually leads to a macrophase separation, whereas the copolymer preserves its lamellar morphology. Segregated nanorods of length close to the width of the diblock copolymer domains are stacked side by side into smectic layers that fill the domain space. Thus, spontaneous organization and orientation of nanorods leads to a spatial modulation of anisotropic composite properties which may be important for various applications.
- block copolymers
- mean field theory