Design of block copolymer membranes using segregation strength trend lines
Block copolymer self-assembly and non-solvent induced phase separation are now being combined to fabricate membranes with narrow pore size distribution and high porosity. The method has the potential to be used with a broad range of tailor-made block copolymers to control functionality and selectivity for specific separations. However, the extension of this process to any new copolymer is challenging and time consuming, due to the complex interplay of influencing parameters, such as solvent composition, polymer molecular weights, casting solution concentration, and evaporation time. We propose here an effective method for designing new block copolymer membranes. The method consists of predetermining a trend line for the preparation of isoporous membranes, obtained by computing solvent properties, interactions and copolymer block sizes for a set of successful systems and using it as a guide to select the preparation conditions for new membranes. We applied the method to membranes based on poly(styrene-b-ethylene oxide) diblocks and extended it to newly synthesized poly(styrene-b-2-vinyl pyridine-b-ethylene oxide) (PS-b-P2VP-b-PEO) terpolymers. The trend line method can be generally applied to other new systems and is expected to dramatically shorten the path of isoporous membrane manufacture. The PS-b-P2VP-b-PEO membrane formation was investigated by in situ Grazing Incident Small Angle X-ray Scattering (GISAXS), which revealed a hexagonal micelle order with domain spacing clearly correlated to the membrane interpore distances.