Reversible switch between the nanoporous and the nonporous state of amphiphilic block copolymer films regulated by selective swelling†
Switchable nanoporous films, which can repeatedly alternate their porosities, are of great interest in a diversity of fields. Currently these intelligent materials are mostly based on polyelectrolytes and their porosities can change only in relatively narrow ranges, typically under wet conditions, severely limiting their applications. Here we develop a new system, which is capable of reversibly switching between a highly porous state and a nonporous state dozens of times regulated simply by exposure to selective solvents. In this system nanopores are created or reversibly eliminated in films of a block copolymer, polystyrene-block-poly(2-vinyl pyridine) (PS-b-P2VP), by exposing the films to P2VP-selective or PS-selective solvents, respectively. The mechanism of the switch is based on the selective swelling of the constituent blocks in corresponding solvents, which is a nondestructive and easily controllable process enabling the repeatable and ample switch between the open and the closed state. Systematic microscopic and ellipsometric characterization methods are performed to elucidate the pore-closing course induced by nonsolvents and the cycling between the pore-open and the pore-closed state up to 20 times. The affinity of the solvent for PS blocks is found to play a dominating role in determining the pore-closing process and the porosities of the pore-open films increase with the cycling numbers as a result of loose packing conditions of the polymer chains. We finally demonstrate the potential applications of these films as intelligent antireflection coatings and drug carriers.