Microphase separation through competitive hydrogen bonding interactions in ABC/D triblock copolymer/ homopolymer complexes is studied for the first time. This study investigated self-assembled nanostructures that are obtained in the bulk, by the complexation of a semicrystalline polystyrene-block-poly(4-vinylpyridine)-block-poly(ethylene oxide) (SVPEO) triblock copolymer with a poly(4-vinyl phenol) (PVPh) homopolymer in tetrahydrofuran (THF). In these complexes, microphase separation takes place due to the disparity in intermolecular interactions among PVPh/P4VP and PVPh/PEO pairs. At low PVPh concentrations, PEO interacts relatively weakly with PVPh, whereas in the complexes containing more than 30 wt% PVPh, the PEO block interacts considerably with PVPh, leading to the formation of composition-dependent nanostructures. SAXS and TEM results indicate that the cylindrical morphology of a neat SVPEO triblock copolymer changes into lamellae structures at 20 wt% of PVPh then to disordered lamellae with 40 wt% PVPh. Wormlike structures are obtained in the complex with 50 wt%PVPh, followed by disordered spherical microdomains with size in the order of 40–50 nm in the complexes with 60–80 wt% PVPh. Moreover, when the content of PVPh increases to 80 wt%, the complexes show a completely homogenous phase of PVPh/P4VP and PVPh/PEO with phase separated spherical PS domains. The fractional crystallization behavior in SVPEO and complexes at lower PVPh content was also examined. A structural model was proposed to explain the microphase separation and self-assembled morphologies of these complexes based on the experimental results obtained. The formation of nanostructures and changes in morphologies depend on the relative strength of hydrogen bonding interactions between each component block of the copolymer and the homopolymer.
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