Phase equilibria and phase separation dynamics in a polymer composite containing a main-chain liquid crystalline polymer



Various topological phase diagrams of blends of main-chain liquid crystalline polymer (MCLCP) and flexible polymer have been established theoretically in the framework of Matsuyama–Kato theory by combining Flory–Huggins (FH) free energy for isotropic mixing, Maier–Saupe (MS) free energy for nematic ordering in the constituent MCLCP, and free energy pertaining to polymer chain-rigidity. As a scouting study, various phase diagrams of binary flexible polymer blends have been solved self-consistently that reveal a combined lower critical solution temperature (LCST) and upper critical solution temperature (UCST), including an hourglass phase diagram. The calculated phase diagrams exhibit liquidus and solidus lines along with a nematic–isotropic (NI) transition of the constituent MCLCP. Depending on the strengths of the FH interaction parameters and the anisotropic (nematic–nematic) interaction parameters, the self-consistent solution reveals an hourglass type phase diagram overlapping with the NI transition of the constituent MCLCP. Subsequently, thermodynamic parameters estimated from the phase diagrams hitherto established have been employed in the numerical computation to elucidate phase separation dynamics and morphology evolution accompanying thermal-quench induced phase separation of the MCLCP/polymer mixture. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 44: 3621-3630, 2006