Computational exploration of polymer nanocomposite mechanical property modification via cross-linking topology

N Lacevic and RH Gee and A Saab and R Maxwell, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 129, 124903 (2008).

DOI: 10.1063/1.2980044

Molecular dynamics simulations have been performed in order to study the effects of nanoscale filler cross-linking topologies and loading levels on the mechanical properties of a model elastomeric nanocomposite. The model system considered here is constructed from octafunctional polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS) dispersed in a poly (dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) matrix. Shear moduli, G, have been computed for pure and for filled and unfilled PDMS as a function of cross-linking density, POSS fill loading level, and polymer network topology. The results reported here show that G increases as the cross-linking (covalent bonds formed between the POSS and the PDMS network) density increases. Further, G is found to have a strong dependence on cross- linking topology. The increase in shear modulus, G, for POSS filled PDMS is significantly higher than that for unfilled PDMS cross-linked with standard molecular species, suggesting an enhanced reinforcement mechanism for POSS. In contrast, in blended systems (POSS/PDMS mixture with no cross-linking) G was not observed to significantly increase with POSS loading. Finally, we find intriguing differences in the structural arrangement of bond strains between the cross-linked and the blended systems. In the unfilled PDMS the distribution of highly strained bonds appears to be random, while in the POSS filled system, the strained bonds form a netlike distribution that spans the network. Such a distribution may form a structural network "holding" the composite together and resulting in increases in G compared to an unfilled, cross- linked system. These results are of importance for engineering of new POSS-based multifunctional materials with tailor-made mechanical properties. (C) 2008 American Institute of Physics.

Return to Publications page