Understanding nanodomain morphology formation in dip-coated PS-b-PEO thin films†
Block copolymer (BCP) thin films prepared by dip-coating are increasingly investigated, owing to the many promising application areas, the facility, and the industrial scalability of this technique. Yet, the effect of different dip-coating parameters on BCP nanostructure formation is still underdeveloped and the results of previous literature are limited to a few block copolymers. Here, we study the effect of the withdrawal rate and solvent selectivity on the morphology evolution of dip-coated polystyrene-b-poly(ethylene oxide) thin films by applying a wide range of dip-coating speeds and altering the volume ratio of the tetrahydrofuran–water solvent system. The dip-coated films were characterized using atomic force microscopy and ellipsometry. The nanodomain morphology, its feature sizes, its spanning, and the degree of ordering were investigated with regard to different dip-coating parameters. Notably, we have obtained a hexagonally packed BCP pattern with long-range order without the need for post-annealing processes. Overall, a solid understanding of the parameters affecting the formed surface patterns and their interplay was attained and explained, extending the knowledge of this field to more materials.