Revisiting stress-strain behavior and mechanical reinforcement of polymer nanocomposites from molecular dynamics simulations

JX Shen and XS Lin and J Liu and X Li, PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 22, 16760-16771 (2020).

DOI: 10.1039/d0cp02225j

Through coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, the effects of nanoparticle properties, polymer-nanoparticle interactions, chain crosslinks and temperature on the stress-strain behavior and mechanical reinforcement of polymer nanocomposites (PNCs) are comprehensively investigated. By regulating the filler-polymer interaction (miscibility) in a wide range, an optimal dispersion state of nanoparticles is found at moderate interaction strength, while the mechanical properties of PNCs are improved monotonically with the increase of the particle- polymer interaction due to the tele-bridge structures of nanoparticlesviapolymer chains. Although smaller-sized fillers more easily build interconnected structures, the elastic moduli of PNCs at the percolation threshold concentration where a three-dimensional filler network forms are almost independent of nanoparticle size. Compared with spherical nanoparticles, anisotropic rod-like ones, especially with larger aspect ratio and rod stiffness, contribute exceptional reinforcement towards polymer materials. In addition, the elastic modulus with the strain, derived from the stress-strain curve, shows an analogous nonlinear behavior to the amplitude-dependence of the storage modulus (Payne effect). Such a behavior originates essentially from the failure/breakup of the microstructures contributing to the mechanical reinforcement, such as bound polymer layers around nanoparticles or nanoparticle networking structures. The Young's modulus as a function of the nanoparticle volume fraction greatly exceeds that predicted by the Einstein-Smallwood model and Guth-Gold model, which arises primarily from the contribution of the local/global filler network. The temperature dependence of the Young's modulus is further examined by mode coupling theory (MCT) and the Vogel-Fulcher-Tammann (VFT) equation, and the results indicate that the time-temperature superposition principle holds modestly above the critical temperature on the short- time (small-length) scale of elastic response. This work is expected to provide some guidance on controlling and improving the mechanical properties and nonlinear behavior of PNCs.

Return to Publications page