We present a single molecule fluorescence study that allows one to probe the nanoscale segmental dynamics in amorphous polymer matrices. By recording single molecular lifetime trajectories of embedded fluorophores, peculiar excursions towards longer lifetimes are observed. The asymmetric response is shown to reflect variations in the photonic mode density as a result of the local density fluctuations of the surrounding polymer. We determine the number of polymer segments involved in a local segmental rearrangement volume around the probe. A common decrease of the number of segments with temperature is found for both investigated polymers, poly(styrene) and poly(isobutylmethacrylate). Our novel approach will prove powerful for the understanding of the nanoscale rearrangements in functional polymers.
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[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The use of single molecules to study local, nanoscale polymer dynamics is presented. Fluorescence lifetime fluctuations were used to extract the number of polymer segments (Ns) taking part in the rearranging volume around the probe molecule below the glass transition temperature. Ns was dependent on the temperature and it decreased with increasing temperature. Above the glass transition, rotational motion of single molecules was followed in time and typical time-scales of the rotational diffusion were extracted. These two approaches allowed us to obtain non-averaged information about the heterogeneous dynamics present in polymer systems, on the nanoscale, above and below glass transition temperatures.
Full-text · Article · May 2004 · European Polymer Journal