Polymer compatibility in two dimensions. Modeling of phase behavior of mixed polymethacrylate Langmuir films

Bernardini, C.; Cohen Stuart, M.A.; Stoyanov, S.D.; Arnaudov, L.N.; Leermakers, F.A.M.


We analyze the possibility of polymer blends undergoing phase separation in two dimensions. To this end, we investigate a model system consisting of water-supported Langmuir monolayers, obtained from binary polyalkyl-methacrylate mixtures (PXMA, where X stands for any of the type of ester side groups used: M, methyl-; E, ethyl-; B, butyl-; H, hexyl-; O, octyl-; L, lauryl-methacrylate), by means of self consistent field (SCF) calculations. In particular, we address the conditions which determine demixing and phase separation in the two-dimensional system, showing that a sufficient chain length mismatch in the ester side group moieties is able to drive the polymer demixing. When the difference in length of the alkyl chain of the ester moieties on the two types of polymers is progressively reduced, from 11 carbon atoms (PMMA/PLMA) to 4 carbons only (POMA/PLMA), the demixing tendency is also reduced. The polymer/subphase interactions affect more the distribution of the polymer coils in the POMA/PLMA blend monolayer. Mixing of the two polymers is observed, but also a partial layering along the vertical direction. We also add, to a PMMA/PLMA blended monolayer, a third component, namely, a symmetrical diblock copolymer of the type PLMA-b-PMMA. We observe adsorption of the diblock copolymer exclusively at the contact line between the two homopolymer domains, and a concomitant lowering of the line tension. The line tension varies with the chemical potential of the diblock copolymer according to Gibbs’ law, which demonstrates that PLMA-b-PMMA can act as a “lineactant” (the equivalent of a surfactant in two-dimensional systems) in the binary demixed PMMA/PLMA Langmuir monolayer.