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Discrete Block Copolymers with Diverse Architectures: Resolving Complex Spherical Phases with One Monomer Resolution

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journal contribution
posted on 30.07.2020 by Yanxiao Sun, Rui Tan, Zhuang Ma, Zhanhui Gan, Gang Li, Dongdong Zhou, Yu Shao, Wen-Bin Zhang, Rui Zhang, Xue-Hui Dong
This work describes the first rigorous example of a single-component block copolymer system forming unconventional spherical phases. A library of discrete block polymers with uniform chain length and diverse architectures were modularly prepared through a combination of a step-growth approach and highly efficient coupling reactions. The precise chemical structure eliminates all the molecular defects associated with molar weight, dispersity, and compositional ratio. Complex spherical phases, including the Frank–Kasper phase (A15 and σ) and quasicrystalline phase, were experimentally captured by meticulously tuning the composition and architectures. A phase portrait with unprecedented accuracy was mapped out (up to one monomer resolution), unraveling intriguing details of phase behaviors that have long been compromised by inherent molecular weight distribution. This study serves as a delicate model system to bridge the existing gaps between experimental observations and theoretical assessments and to provide insights into the formation and evolution of the unconventional spherical phases in soft matter systems.