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Keywords:

  • compatibility;
  • electrostatic force microscopy;
  • local dielectric mapping;
  • polystyrene;
  • poly(vinyl acetate)

Abstract

The effect of thermal treatment on the phase separation process of the components of a polymer blend was investigated using electrostatic force microscopy (EFM). EFM technique is an advance on conventional atomic force microscopy, which enables us to measure locally the dielectric properties of the samples under investigation providing compositional information. In this work, we studied the phase separation process of the polymer blend thin films made of polystyrene and poly(vinyl acetate) (PS/PVAc) (75/25 weight fraction). The samples were subjected to different thermal treatments. It was found that at low annealing temperature, PVAc forms many small islands within PS matrix. As the annealing temperature increases, the number of PVAc islands decreases with an increase in the size of the islands. These islands take spherical-like shape when annealed at a temperature well above the glass transition temperatures of both the component polymers. Despite these morphological/topographical changes, EFM images evidence that there is no interdiffusion which was further confirmed by quantitatively measuring the value of the dielectric permittivity across the interphase. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 49: 1332–1338, 2011