Electronic Structure of Polyethylene: Role of Chemical, Morphological and Interfacial Complexity

LH Chen and TD Huan and R Ramprasad, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 7, 6128 (2017).

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-06357-y

The electronic structure of an insulator encodes essential signatures of its short-term electrical performance and long-term reliability. A critical long-standing challenge though is that key features of the electronic structure of an insulator (and its evolution) under realistic conditions have not been entirely accessible, either via experimental or computational approaches, due to the inherent complexities involved. In this comprehensive study, we reveal the role of chemical and morphological imperfections that inevitably exist within the technologically important prototypical and pervasive insulator, polyethylene (PE), and at electrode/PE interfaces. Large-scale density functional theory computations and long-time molecular dynamics simulations were employed to accurately recover, explain and unravel a wide variety of experimental data obtained during the electrical degradation of PE. This scheme has allowed us to directly and realistically address the role of chemical, morphological and interfacial complexity in determining electronic structure. These efforts take us a step closer to understanding and potentially controlling dielectric degradation and breakdown.

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