Molecular orientation and stability of poly(3-hexylthiophene) nanogratings affected by the fabricated solvent vapor†
During the nanoimprinting lithography (NIL) process, the role of solvent vapor in fabricating the pattern structure and inducing the molecular alignment of nanoimprinted polymer film has been attracting significant attention. We demonstrate here that the molecular orientation and thermal stability of poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) nanograting film can be affected obviously by the fabricated solvent vapor. A solvent-vapor nanoimprinting lithography (SV-NIL) technique based on a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) template is employed to fabricate a P3HT nanograting structure film successfully and solvent vapor is offered by chlorobenzene, chloroform and carbon disulphide, respectively. The molecular orientation of the polymer film is carefully characterized by grazing incidence wide angle X-ray diffraction (GIWAXD) measurements to investigate the effect of various solvent vapors on the molecular orientation of the P3HT nanograting film. For the P3HT nanograting film fabricated by chloroform and chlorobenzene solvent, the edge-on molecular orientation of the typical form II crystallographic structure is induced. However, this indicates that there are both the face-on molecular orientations of the form II and form I crystallographic conformation present for the P3HT nanograting film fabricated by carbon disulphide solvent. Therefore, the fabricated solvent vapor plays a significant role in determining the formation of the molecular orientation of the polymer nanostructure. Then, the role of thermal annealing in the stability of the molecular orientation was investigated for the P3HT nanograting film after a fixed temperature. As for the annealed nanograting film fabricated by chlorobenzene and chloroform solvent vapor, a single edge-on molecular orientation mode of the form I crystallographic structure has been obtained. However, for the annealed nanograting film fabricated by the carbon disulphide solvent, the edge-on and face-on molecular orientations of the form I crystallographic structure are still retained. This indicates that the stability of the form II crystallographic conformation is mainly dependent on the thermal annealing process. Therefore, after the annealing process, the final determining of the molecular alignment and crystallographic conformation depends significantly on the orientation type of the nanograting film before the annealing history, and it can be further inferred that the molecular orientation of the annealed polymer film is still affected by the fabricated solvent vapor significantly. Thus this will provide new understanding and guidance for the research of the topographical structure and molecular alignment of conjugated polymers.