Atomistic Simulations of Cavitation in a Model Polyethylene Network

AK Morozinis and C Tzoumanekas and SD Anogiannakis and DN Theodorou, POLYMER SCIENCE SERIES C, 55, 212-218 (2013).

DOI: 10.1134/S1811238213050020

A molecular-level understanding of cavitation in polymer networks upon imposition of mechanical stress is still lacking. Molecular Dynamics simulations of crosslinked amorphous Polyethylene (PE) were conducted in order to study cavitation as a function of the prevailing stress. We first show that the characteristic relaxation times related to tube confinement and chain connectivity can be obtained by examining the mean square displacement of middle chain monomers. Then, we present a methodology for predicting the cavitation strength and understanding its dependence on cohesive interactions and entropic elasticity. Our simulations show that experimental observations and predictions of continuum mechanics analysis, which relate the critical stress for cavitation to the Young's modulus of the rubber, are in agreement with the observed tensile triaxial stress below which a pre-existing cavity cannot survive in a cavitated sample.

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