Anisotropic phase-separated morphology of polymer blends directed by electrically pre-oriented clay platelets†
We describe a general pathway to prepare an anisotropic phase-separated polystyrene (PS) – poly(vinyl methyl ether) (PVME) blend morphology by using electrically pre-orientated clay platelets. The clay platelets were oriented in a PS/PVME blend by means of an externally applied AC electric field while the blend is in one phase. Following orientation step, phase separation of the blends was induced by a temperature jump above their lower critical solution temperature (LCST) in the presence of the oriented clay platelets. In this process, an early stage co-continuous PS/PVME morphology coarsened and turned anisotropic phase-separated morphology parallel to the direction defined by clay planes oriented by AC electric field. The degree of anisotropy of PS/PVME phase-separated morphology was characterized by image analysis and that was found to be linearly proportional to the degree of orientation of clay platelets obtained by a 2D Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS). Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) image of the blend morphology revealed that clay platelets oriented to AC field direction were located in a PVME phase. The electrically ordered column structures of clay platelets in the PVME phase yielded anisotropic PS diffusion during the phase separation. This process provides a unique new way to develop directionally organized phase-separated morphology from partially miscible binary blends using nanoparticles in combination with an external electric field.