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Effects of a volatile solvent with low surface tension combining with the silica network reinforcement on retention of LLC structure in polymer matrix


Organic polymers with ordered nanostructures templated from lyotropic liquid crystals (LLC) have many potential applications in areas such as membranes, tissue engineering, and drug delivery. However, after removing the LLC templates, the high surface tension during vacuum or air drying will deform the structure to a great extent. This study investigates the structure retention in cross-linked poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate polymer through reinforcement of a silica network and using a volatile solvent with low surface tension. The LLC templates were formed from non-ionic surfactant, Brij 56/water system. Silica network was obtained through a sol–gel method using TEOS as a silica precursor and hydrochloric acid as a catalyst. The LLC templates were removed and the samples were dried from this solvent using a mixed solvent n-hexane and ethanol (H–E solvent) with lower surface tension. Samples dried from H–E solvent preserved the structure template from LLC even with low TEOS loading due to the presence of a non-polar solvent that has little effect on silica reverse hydrolysis and lower surface tension. This indicates that drying the sample from a volatile solvent with low surface tension combining with the silica network reinforcement facilities the structure retention.

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The project has been supported by a Deakin University postgraduate scholarship and a CSIRO top-up scholarship from the National Research Flagship Water for a Healthy Country. SAXS was performed on the SAXS beamline at the Australian Synchrotron, Victoria, Australia.

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Correspondence to Manh Hoang or Ling Xue Kong.

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Zhang, J., Xie, Z., Hill, A.J. et al. Effects of a volatile solvent with low surface tension combining with the silica network reinforcement on retention of LLC structure in polymer matrix. Polym. Bull. 75, 581–595 (2018).

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  • Nanostructured polymers
  • Liquid crystals
  • Self-assembly