We have systematically studied the equilibrium structure and dynamics of a polymeric bicontinuous microemulsion (BμE) composed of poly(cyclohexylethylene) (PCHE), poly(ethylene) (PE), and a volumetrically symmetric PCHE-PE diblock copolymer, using dynamic mechanical spectroscopy, small angle X-ray and neutron scattering, and transmission electron microscopy. The BμE was investigated over an 80 °C temperature range, revealing a structural evolution and a rheological response not previously recognized in such systems. As the temperature is reduced below the point associated with the lamellar-disorder transition at compositions adjacent to the microemulsion channel, the interfacial area per chain of the BμE approaches that of the neat (undiluted) lamellar diblock copolymer. With increasing temperature, the diblock-rich interface swells through homopolymer infiltration. Time-temperature-superposed linear dynamic data obtained as a function of frequency show that the viscoelastic response of the BμE is strikingly similar to that of the fluctuating pure diblock copolymer in the disordered state, which we associate with membrane undulations and the breaking and reforming of interfaces. This work provides new insights into the structure and dynamics that characterize thermodynamically stable BμEs in the limits of relatively weak and strong segregation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics