Predicting the Macroscopic Fracture Energy of Epoxy Resins from Atomistic Molecular Simulations

ZX Meng and MA Bessa and WJ Xia and WK Liu and S Keten, MACROMOLECULES, 49, 9474-9483 (2016).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.6b01508

Predicting the macroscopic fracture energy of highly cross-linked glassy polymers from atomistic simulations is challenging due to the size of the process zone being large in these systems. Here, we present a scale- bridging approach that links atomistic molecular dynamics simulations to macroscopic fracture properties on the basis of a continuum fracture mechanics model for two different epoxy materials. Our approach reveals that the fracture energy of epoxy resins strongly depends on the functionality of epoxy resin and the component ratio between the curing agent (amine) and epoxide. The most intriguing part of our study is that we demonstrate that the fracture energy exhibits a maximum value within the range of conversion degrees considered (from 65% to 95%), which can be attributed to the combined effects of structural rigidity and postyield deformability. Our study provides physical insight into the molecular mechanisms that govern the fracture characteristics of epoxy resins and demonstrates the success of utilizing atomistic molecular simulations toward predicting macroscopic material properties.

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