Microphase separation of highly amphiphilic, low N polymers by photoinduced copper-mediated polymerization, achieving sub-2 nm domains at half-pitch†
The lower limit of domain size resolution using microphase separation of short poly(acrylic acid) homopolymers equipped with a short fluorinated tail, posing as an antagonist ‘A block’ in pseudo AB block copolymers has been investigated. An alkyl halide initiator with a fluorocarbon chain was utilized as a first ‘A block’ in the synthesis of low molecular weight polymers (1400–4300 g mol−1) using photoinduced Cu(II)-mediated polymerization allowing for very narrow dispersity. Poly(tert-butyl acrylate) was synthesized and subsequently deprotected to give very low degrees of polymerization (N), amphiphilic polymers with low dispersity (Đ = 1.06–1.13). By exploiting the high driving force for demixing and the well-defined ‘block’ sizes, we are able to control the nanostructure in terms of domain size (down to 3.4 nm full-pitch) and morphology. This work demonstrates the simple and highly controlled synthesis of polymers to push the boundaries of the smallest achievable domain sizes obtained from polymer self-assembly.