Simulation-guided analysis of resonant soft X-ray scattering for determining the microstructure of triblock copolymers†
Resonant soft X-ray scattering (RSoXS) probes structure with chemical sensitivity that is useful for determining the morphology of multiblock copolymers. However, the hyperspectral scattering data produced by this technique can be challenging to interpret. Here, we use computational scattering simulations to extract the microstructure of a model triblock copolymer from the energy-dependent scattering from RSoXS. An ABC triblock terpolymer formed from poly(4-methylcaprolactone) (P4MCL), poly(2,2,2-trifluoroethylacrylate) (PTFEA), and poly (dodecylacrylate) (PDDA), P4MCL-block-PTFEA-block-PDDA, was synthesized as the model triblock system. Through quantitative evaluation of simulated scattering data from a physics-informed set of candidate structure models against experimental RSoXS data, we find the best agreement with hexagonally packed core–shell cylinders. This result is also consistent with electron-density reconstruction from hard X-ray scattering data evaluated against electron-density maps generated with the same model set. These results demonstrate the utility of simulation-guided scattering analysis to study complex microstructures that are challenging to image by microscopy.