American Chemical Society
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Limits of Directed Self-Assembly in Block Copolymers

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-05-18, 00:00 authored by Karim R. Gadelrab, Yi Ding, Ricardo Pablo-Pedro, Hsieh Chen, Kevin W. Gotrik, David G. Tempel, Caroline A. Ross, Alfredo Alexander-Katz
Understanding the conditions under which defects appear in self-assembling soft-matter systems is of great importance, for example, in the development of block-copolymer (BCP) nanolithography. Here, we explore the limits of the directed self-assembly of BCPs by deliberately adding random imperfections to the template. Our results show that defects emerge due to local “shear-like” distortions of the polymer–template system, a new mechanism that is fundamentally different from the canonical mechanisms of 2D melting. Furthermore, our results provide a general criterion for melting, obtaining the highest tolerance to random deviations from the perfect template at about 0.1L0, where L0 is the natural BCP periodicity. These findings establish the limits of directed self-assembly of BCPs and can be extended to other classes of materials with soft interactions.