Effect of Surface Nanopatterning on Slip: The Case of Couette Flow of Long-Chain Polyethylene Melt Flowing Past Gold Surfaces

AP Sgouros and DS Tsagkalakis and DN Theodorou, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 125, 6681-6696 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.1c02546

The manifestation of slip during flow of a polymer melt past a solid surface depends on several parameters, such as film thickness, the strength of polymer-solid interactions compared to the cohesive energy of the polymer, and the roughness of the surface. Understanding the role of these molecular aspects for slip is crucial in microfluidics, friction-tuning, polymer extrusion, and nanocomposites applications. The present article investigates the effect of surface nanopatterning on slip, via Couette-flow simulations of long chain polyethylene melts past nanopatterned gold surfaces. Slip is quantified in terms of the true and effective slip velocity, and the slip length. When polymer chains are adsorbed to surfaces with periodic features (e.g., crystal planes), they develop preferential ordering in a way that enables them to minimize their free energy. The orientation of a chain is affected by that of its neighbors; thus, when several chains come together, they are prone to form regions with crystal-like orientation. We show that, in some cases, the introduction of nanopatterns on the surface can perturb and induce reorganization of these regions, and in turn affect slip. The nanopatterns are realized as periodic defect stripes of variable width, depth, areal density, and orientation angle. In situations in which the width of the defects becomes comparable to the diameter of individual chain backbones, slip is minimized (stick conditions). Cutting the nanopatterns in low symmetry directions can affect the quality of their edges and lead to enhanced friction. To characterize these edges we have devised a scheme for the quantification of the mean square roughness and mean position of the surface, which is general and applicable in 2 and 3 dimensions for any kind of material, either crystalline of amorphous. Applying the patterns on the opposing solid surfaces in a symmetric or antisymmetric manner has a profound effect on flow. We show that the application of nanopatterns in symmetric configurations generates zero net flow and induces additional shear along directions normal to the direction of the flow. The application of symmetry-breaking configurations can guide flow toward preferential directions, a result with possible applications in microfluidic devices.

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