A combined theoretical and experimental investigation of conjugated rod-coil block copolymer brushes is reported. The theoretical study for the surface structures of rod-coil block copolymer brushes was established based on the simulation method of dissipative particle dynamics. The effects of solvent stimuli, grafting density, and rod-coil block ratio of the polymer brushes on the surface structures were examined. The rod blocks of polymer brushes were found to be well-dispersed on the surface in their good solvents. On the other hand, aggregative domains of the rod blocks were formed in their poor solvents with the conformations of isolated islands or worm-like structures depending on the grafting density of the polymer brushes. The aggregative domains tend to stay on top of the coil blocks for small rod-to-coil block ratio. However, the submergence of the aggregative domains into the coil blocks is thermodynamically preferred for large enough rod-to-coil block ratio. New multifunctional amphiphilic rod-coil block copolymers, poly-[2,7-(9,9-di-n-hexylfluorene)]-block-poly-[poly(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate]-block-poly-[3(tripropoxysilyl)propyl methacrylate] (PF-b-PPEGMA-b-PPOPS), with two different block ratios were synthesized and used to prepare the corresponding polymer brushes via the grafting- method. The effects of stimuli factors on the surface structures characterized by the atomic force microscopy images were consistent with the theoretical results. Furthermore, the photophysical properties of PF-b-PPEGMA-b-PPOPS brushes were significantly varied by the solvent stimuli. The emission peaks originated from the aggregation and/or excimer formation of PF blocks were observed after methanol treatment. The photoluminescence intensity and its efficiency were well correlated to the surface structure and the methanol content in mixed solvents. Our study demonstrates how the surface structures and photophysical properties of rod-coil block copolymer brushes response to environmental stimuli.
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