The role of confinement and corona crystallinity on the bending modulus of copolymer micelles measured directly by AFM flexural tests†
We present an approach which makes it possible to directly determine the bending modulus of single elongated block copolymer micelles. This is done by forming arrays of suspended micelles onto microfabricated substrates and by performing three-point bending flexural tests, using an atomic force microscope, on their suspended portions. By coupling the direct atomic force microscopy measurements with differential scanning calorimetry data, we show that the presence of a crystalline corona strongly increases the modulus of the copolymer elongated micelles. This large increase suggests that crystallites in the corona are larger and more uniformly oriented due to confinement effects. Our findings together with this hypothesis open new interesting avenues for the preparation of core-templated polymer fibres with enhanced mechanical properties.