Order and orientation control of mesoporous silica films on conducting gold substrates formed by dip-coating and self-assembly: A grazing angle of incidence small-angle X-ray scattering and field emission scanning electron microscopy study
Grazing-angle of incidence small-angle X-ray scattering (GISAXS) and high-resolution field emission scanning electron microscopy have been used to characterize the mesophase symmetry, orientation, and long-range order in PEO20-PPO70-PEO20 (Pluronic P123) templated mesoporous silica thin films on conducting gold substrates as a function of silica-to-ethylene oxide (Si/EO) block ratio and relative humidity (RH). The films are formed by dip-coating followed by evaporation-induced self-assembly under tightly controlled RH. The general evolution of the mesophase follows the trends that are expected based on shape factors due to swelling of the PEO block. However, changes in orientation of the nanostructure relative to the substrate and the degree of long-range order are found to depend on Si/EO ratio. These effects are likely due to the dynamics of evaporation and self-assembly. Generally, at Si/EO ratios lower than 3.29, the films contained regions where the nanostructure was not oriented relative to the plane of the substrate. However, for Si/EO ratios greater than 3.62, conditions were found where the nanostructure of the film was highly oriented relative to the plane of the substrate. This is true over the range of RH studied, independent of the nanostructure symmetry. For low Si/EO ratios at the highest RH levels, the films were composed of a mixture of spherical and cylindrical pores. At high Si/EO ratios and high RH levels, the films had a highly oriented R-3m nanostructure but displayed streaking perpendicular to the substrate in the Bragg spots on GISAXS patterns. This streaking is interpreted as faulting along planes parallel to the substrate.
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