Entropic and Enthalpic Effects in Thin Film Blends of Homopolymers and Bottlebrush Polymers
We present a combined experimental and computational study of surface segregation in thin films of nearly athermal blends of linear and bottlebrush polymers. The lengths of bottlebrush backbone (Nb), bottlebrush side chain (Nsc), and linear polystyrene host (Nm) are systematically varied to examine the effects of polymer architecture on phase behavior. From the experiments, combinations of architectural parameters are identified that produce enrichment and depletion of bottlebrush at the polymer–air interface. These surface segregation behaviors are consistent with entropy-dominated thermodynamics. In addition, the experiments reveal conditions where bottlebrush and linear polymers are equally preferred at the surface. Simulations based on the self-consistent field theory (SCFT) qualitatively capture the three types of surface segregation behaviors and highlight the delicate interplay of entropic and enthalpic effects. Our investigations demonstrate that controlling both entropic and enthalpic driving forces is critical for the design of surface-active bottlebrush polymer additives.