Stimulus-responsive microporous solid thin films were successfully fabricated by simple molecular self-assembly via an amphiphilic block polymer, polystryene–b
–polyacrylic acid (PS–b
–PAA). The solid thin films exhibit different surface morphologies in response to external stimuli, such as environments with different pH values in aqueous solutions. The experiments have successfully applied atomic force microscope (AFM) technology to observe in-situ
surface morphological changes. There is a reversible evolution of the microstructures in buffer solutions over a pH range of 2.4–9.2. These observations have been explained by positing that there is no conventional PAA swelling but that the PAA chains in the micropores stretch and contract with changes in the pH of the solution environment. The hydrophobicity of the solid thin film surface was transformed into super-hydrophilicity, as captured by optical contact angle measurements. The stimulus-responsive dynamics of pore sizes was described by a two-stage mechanism. A promising electrochemical application of this film is suggested via combination with an electrochemical impedance technique. This study is aimed at strategies for the functionalization of stimulus-responsive microporous solid thin films with reversible tunable surface morphologies, and exploring new smart materials with switch-on/switch-off behavior.
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