Particle localization and hyperuniformity of polymer-grafted nanoparticle materials

A Chremos and JF Douglas, ANNALEN DER PHYSIK, 529, UNSP 1600342 (2017).

DOI: 10.1002/andp.201600342

The properties of materials largely reflect the degree and character of the localization of the molecules comprising them so that the study and characterization of particle localization has central significance in both fundamental science and material design. Soft materials are often comprised of deformable molecules and many of their unique properties derive from the distinct nature of particle localization. We study localization in a model material composed of soft particles, hard nanoparticles with grafted layers of polymers, where the molecular characteristics of the grafted layers allow us to tune the softness of their interactions. Soft particles are particular interesting because spatial localization can occur such that density fluctuations on large length scales are suppressed, while the material is disordered at intermediate length scales; such materials are called disordered hyperuniform. We use molecular dynamics simulation to study a liquid composed of polymer-grafted nanoparticles (GNP), which exhibit a reversible self-assembly into dynamic polymeric GNP structures below a temperature threshold, suggesting a liquid-gel transition. We calculate a number of spatial and temporal correlations and we find a significant suppression of density fluctuations upon cooling at large length scales, making these materials promising for the practical fabrication of hyperuniform materials.

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