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Comparing Experimental Phase Behavior of Ion-Doped Block Copolymers with Theoretical Predictions Based on Selective Ion Solvation


The effects of salt-doping on the morphological behavior of block copolymers are well established but remain poorly understood, partially because of the challenge of resolving electrostatics in a heterogeneous medium with low average permittivity. By employing a recently developed field theory, we analyze the phase behavior of polystyrene-b-poly(ethylene oxide) (SEO) copolymers doped with lithium bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide salts (LiTFSI). Using a single fitting parameter, the ionic solvation radius, we obtain qualitative agreement between our theory and experimental data over a range of polymer molecular weights and copolymer compositions. Such agreement supports and highlights the need of solvation free energy to accurately describe the self-assembly of ion-doped block copolymers and demonstrates that experimentally observed dependence on molecular weight, not present in neutral block copolymers, can be rationalized by solvation effects. Overall, morphological variations are stronger than those predicted by the leading, linear order theory but can be captured by the full model.

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