The wetting/dewetting behavior of thin films of lightly sulfonated low molecular weight polystyrene (SPS) ionomers spin-coated onto silica surfaces were studied using atomic force microscopy (AFM), contact angle measurements, and electron microscopy. The effects of the sulfonation level, the choice of the cation, the solvent used to spin-coat the films, and the molecular weight of the ionomer were investigated. Small angle X-ray scattering was used to determine the bulk microstructure of the films. The addition of the sulfonate groups suppressed the dewetting behavior of the PS above its glass transition temperature, e.g. no dewetting occurred even after 240 h of annealing at 120 degrees C. Increasing the sulfonation level led to more homogeneous and smoother surfaces. The choice of the cation used affected the wetting properties, but not in a predictable manner. When tetrahydrofuran (THF) or a THF/methanol mixed solvent was used for spin-casting, a submicron-textured surface morphology was produced, which may be a consequence of spinodal decomposition of the film surface during casting. Upon annealing for long times, the particles coalesced into a coherent, nonwetted film.
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