Analysis of polymer membrane formation through spinodal decomposition. Part 4: Computer simulation of early-stage coarsening

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In a previous work, an early-stage coarsening mechanism was proposed, whereby continued growth of structure (via spinodal decomposition) in a polymer-solvent system will occur because some of the polymer-rich domains are being depleted. Such a mechanism was explained based on the situation wherein portions of the solvent-rich domains have already reached their binodal composition while the polymer-rich domains are still on their way to their corresponding binodal composition. In this work, we have simulated the nonlinear version of the Cahn-Hilliard theory to verify this phenomenon. Moreover, we have observed that the depleted polymer-rich domains seem to be uniformly distributed in space. Finally, as a validation of the proposed mechanism, we did not observe this uniform depletion of the domains when portions of the solvent-rich and polymer-rich domains reach their respective binodal compositions almost simultaneously.

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Polymer Engineering and Science