Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version

May 2008


Recent experiments show that external inplanar electric field can be employed to guide the molecular self-assembly in diblock copolymer (BCP) thin films to form lamellar nanostructures with potential applications in nanotechnology. We study this self-assembly process through a detailed coarse-grained phase separation modeling. During the process, the free energy of the BCP films is modeled as the Ginzburg-Landau free energy with nonlocal interaction and electrostatic coupling. The resulting Cahn-Hilliard (CH) equation is solved using an efficient semi-implicit Fourier-spectral algorithm. Numerical results show that the morphology of order parameter formed in either symmetric or asymmetric BCP thin films is strongly influenced by the electric field. For symmetrical BCPs, highly ordered lamellar nanostructures evolved along the direction of the electric field. Phase nucleation and dislocation climbing in the BCP films predicted by the numerical simulation are in a good agreement with those observed in recent BCP electronanolithography. For asymmetrical BCPs, numerical simulation shows that nanodots are guided to align to the electric field. Furthermore, in the case of high electric field, nanodots formed in asymmetrical BCPs may further convert into highly ordered lamellar nanostructures (sphere-to-cylinder transition) parallel to the electric field. Effects of the magnitude of electric field, BCP asymmetry, and molecular interaction of BCPs on the self-assembly process are examined in detail using the numerical scheme developed in this study. The present study can be used for the prediction of the formation of nanostructures in BCP thin films and the quality control of BCP-based nanomanufacturing through optimizing the external electric fields. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.77.031807