Molecular-dynamics simulations of crosslinking and confinement effects on structure, segmental mobility and mechanics of filled elastomers

T Davris and AV Lyulin, VIII INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON TIMES OF POLYMERS AND COMPOSITES: FROM AEROSPACE TO NANOTECHNOLOGY, 1736, UNSP 020005 (2016).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4949579

The significant drop of the storage modulus under uniaxial deformation (Payne effect) restrains the performance of the elastomer-based composites and the development of possible new applications. In this paper molecular-dynamics (MD) computer simulations using LAMMPS MD package have been performed to study the mechanical properties of a coarse-grained model of this family of nanocomposite materials. Our goal is to provide simulational insights into the viscoelastic properties of filled elastomers, and try to connect the macroscopic mechanics with composite microstructure, the strength of the polymer-filler interactions and the polymer mobility at different scales. To this end we simulate random copolymer films capped between two infinite solid (filler aggregate) walls. We systematically vary the strength of the polymer-substrate adhesion interactions, degree of polymer confinement (film thickness), polymer crosslinking density, and study their influence on the equilibrium and non-equilibrium structure, segmental dynamics, and the mechanical properties of the simulated systems. The glass-transition temperature increases once the mesh size became smaller than the chain radius of gyration; otherwise it remained invariant to mesh-size variations. This increase in the glass-transition temperature was accompanied by a monotonic slowing-down of segmental dynamics on all studied length scales. This observation is attributed to the correspondingly decreased width of the bulk density layer that was obtained in films whose thickness was larger than the end-to-end distance of the bulk polymer chains. To test this hypothesis additional simulations were performed in which the crystalline walls were replaced with amorphous or rough walls.

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