Role of a nanoparticle network in polymer mechanical reinforcement: insights from molecular dynamics simulations

X Li and ZW Li and JX Shen and ZJ Zheng and J Liu, PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 23, 21797-21807 (2021).

DOI: 10.1039/d1cp03153h

Fully understanding the mechanism by which nanoparticles (NPs) strengthen polymer matrices is crucial for fabricating high-performance polymer nanocomposites (PNCs). Herein, coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations were adopted to explicitly investigate the reinforcing effect of a NP network. Our results revealed that increasing the NP-NP interactions induced the self-assembly of NPs into a three-dimensional (3D) network that reinforced the polymer matrix. The reinforcing mechanism of NP-NP interactions was quite different from that of NP- polymer interactions. The latter promoted the orientation of polymer chains to transfer the external stress, while the former distributed the stress throughout the NP network. This work revealed the mechanism by which the NP network reinforced the polymer matrix at the molecular level and also provided guidelines for developing high performance PNCs via interfacial modification.

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