Controlling interfacial curvature in nanoporous silica films formed by evaporation-induced self-assembly from nonionic surfactants. II. Effect of processing parameters on film structure
The double-gyroid phase of nanoporous silica films has been shown to possess facile mass-transport properties and may be used as a mold to fabricate a variety of highly ordered inverse double-gyroid metal and semiconductor films. This phase exists only over a very small region of the binary phase diagram for most surfactants, and it has been very difficult to synthesize metal oxide films with this structure by evaporation-induced self-assembly (EISA). Here, we show the interplay of the key parameters needed to synthesize these structures reproducibly and show that the interfacial curvature may be systematically controlled. Grazing angle of incidence small-angle X-ray scattering (GISAXS) is used to determine the structure and orientation of nanostructured silica films formed by EISA from dilute silica/(poly(ethylene oxide)-b-poly(propylene oxide)-b-alkyl) surfactant solutions. Four different highly ordered film structures are observed by changing only the concentration of the surfactant, the relative humidity during dip-coating, and the aging time of the solution prior to coating. The highly ordered films progress from rhombohedral (R (3) over barm) to 2D rectangular (c2m) to double-gyroid (distorted Ia (3) over bard) to lamellar systematically as interfacial curvature decreases. Under all experimental conditions investigated, increasing the aging time of the coating solution was found to decrease the interfacial curvature. In particular, this parameter was critical to being able to synthesize highly ordered, pure-phase double-gyroid films. The key role of the aging time is shown via processing diagrams that map out the interplay between the aging time, composition, and relative humidity. Si-29 nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and solution-phase small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) of the aged coating solutions presented in part I of this series are then used to interpret the effects of aging prior to dip-coating. Specifically, it was found that a predictive model based on volume fractions and the silica cluster stoichiometry obtained from Si-29 NMR qualitatively explains the trends observed with composition and aging. However, apart from the effects of relative humidity, a quantitative comparison of the predicted phase with the experimental processing diagram suggests that less-condensed silica clusters are more effective at swelling the EO blocks at early aging times. This enhanced swelling decreases with aging time and results in lower-curvature nanostructures such as the double-gyroid. The decrease in swelling is attributed to the decreased thermodynamic driving force for the more-condensed silica clusters to mix with the EO block of the surfactant.
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