Study of polycarbonate–polystyrene interfaces using scanning transmission electron microscopy spectrum imaging (STEM-SI)

Ruchi Pal, Arun K. Sikder, Kei Saito, Alison M. Funston, Jayesh R. Bellare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Polymer blends are important for both commercial utility and scientific understanding. The degree of interfacial mixing in polymer blends is important since it influences the blends' mechanical properties. Understanding bulk properties in multiphase polymeric materials requires knowledge of the interfacial properties of the materials. The characterization of the interface, in terms of its width and composition profile, provides insight about the bulk behaviour of the material. Chemical microscopy through electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS) in a transmission electron microscope is gaining popularity to characterize narrow polymer–polymer interfaces. In this work, we show how scanning transmission electron microscopy spectrum imaging, a spatially resolved energy-loss spectroscopy, can be employed to calculate the interfacial width in a pair of immiscible polymers, taking a polycarbonate–polystyrene (PC-PS) bilayer as an example. By mapping peaks unique to each of the blend constituents at several points across the interface, we show how the interfacial profile concentrations can be determined. With this method we calculated the interfacial width in the PC-PS bilayer sample to be approximately 32 nm, even utilizing low resolution spectrometers, which are more widely available. Using the technique described with higher resolution EELS instruments having a better signal-to-noise ratio, a higher spatial resolution can be achieved. Using EELS chemical fingerprints of polymers that have been developed earlier, the technique presented here has the potential for effective visualization and morphological measurements of phase-differentiated polymer blends. This paper is an attempt to enable a new user to characterize polymer–polymer interfaces using chemical microscopy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-112
Number of pages7
JournalPolymer International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • EELS
  • polymer interfaces
  • spectrum imaging

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