Spatially and Temporally Resolved Heterogeneities in a Miscible Polymer Blend

Guofeng Zhang, Susana Rocha, Gang Lu, Haifeng Yuan, Hiroshi Uji-i, George A. Floudas, Klaus Müllen, Liantuan Xiao, Johan Hofkens, Elke Debroye (see publication in Journal or in Research Gate )


Mapping the spatial and temporal heterogeneities in miscible polymer blends is critical for understanding and further improving their material properties. However, a complete picture on the heterogeneous dynamics is often obscured in ensemble measurements. Herein, the spatial and temporal heterogeneities in fully miscible polystyrene/oligostyrene blend films are investigated by monitoring the rotational diffusion of embedded individual probe molecules using defocused wide-field fluorescence microscopy. In the same blend film, three significantly different types of dynamical behaviors (referred to as modes) of the probe molecules can be observed at the same time, namely, immobile, continuously rotating, and intermittently rotating probe molecules. This reveals a prominent spatial heterogeneity in local dynamics at the nanometer scale. In addition to that, temporal heterogeneity is uncovered by the nonexponential characteristic of the rotational autocorrelation functions of single-molecule probes. Moreover, the occurrence probabilities of these different modes strongly depend on the polystyrene: oligostyrene ratios in the blend films. Remarkably, some probe molecules switch between the continuous and intermittent rotational modes at elevated temperature, indicating a possible alteration in local dynamics that is triggered by the dynamic heterogeneity in the blends. Although some of these findings can be discussed by the self-concentration model and the results provided by ensemble averaging techniques (e.g., dielectric spectroscopy), there are implications that go beyond current models of blend dynamics.