Densely Packed Tethered Polymer Nanoislands: A Simulation Study
N Chen and O Davydovich and C McConnell and A Sidorenko and PB Moore, POLYMERS, 13, 2570 (2021).
COordinated Responsive Arrays of Surface-Linked polymer islands (CORALS) allow for the creation of molecular surfaces with novel and switchable properties. Critical components of CORALs are the uniformly distributed islands of densely grafted polymer chains (nanoislands) separated by regions of bare surface. The grafting footprint and separation distances of nanoislands are comparable to that of the constituent polymer chains themselves. Herein, we characterize the structural features of the nanoislands and semiflexible polymers within to better understand this critical constituent of CORALs. We observe different characteristics of grafted semiflexible polymers depending on the polymer island's size and distance from the center of the island. Specifically, the characteristics of the chains at the island periphery are similar to isolated tethered polymer chains (full flexible chains), while chains in the center of the island experience the neighbor effect such as chains in the classic polymer brush. Chains close to the edge of the islands exhibit unique structural features between these two regimes. These results can be used in the rational design of CORALs with specific interfacial characteristics and predictable responses to external stimuli. It is hoped that this the discussion of the different morphologies of the polymers as a function of distance from the edge of the polymer will find applications in a wide variety of systems.
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