The thermodynamics of self-assembling systems are discussed in terms of the chemical interactions and the intermolecular forces between species. It is clear that there are both theoretical and practical limitations on the dimensions and the structural regularity of these systems. These considerations are made with reference to the microphase separation that occurs in block copolymer (BCP) systems. BCP systems self-assemble via a thermodynamic driven process where chemical dis-affinity between the blocks driving them part is balanced by a restorative force deriving from the chemical bond between the blocks. These systems are attracting much interest because of their possible role in nanoelectronic fabrication. This form of self-assembly can obtain highly regular nanopatterns in certain circumstances where the orientation and alignment of chemically distinct blocks can be guided through molecular interactions between the polymer and the surrounding interfaces. However, for this to be possible, great care must be taken to properly engineer the interactions between the surfaces and the polymer blocks. The optimum methods of structure directing are chemical pre-patterning (defining regions on the substrate of different chemistry) and graphoepitaxy (topographical alignment) but both centre on generating alignment through favourable chemical interactions. As in all self-assembling systems, the problems of defect formation must be considered and the origin of defects in these systems is explored. It is argued that in these nanostructures equilibrium defects are relatively few and largely originate from kinetic effects arising during film growth. Many defects also arise from the confinement of the systems when they are 'directed' by topography. The potential applications of these materials in electronics are discussed.
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