Effects of a "bound" substrate layer on the dynamics of supported polymer films

WG Zhang and JF Douglas and FW Starr, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 147, 044901 (2017).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4994064

It is widely appreciated that an attractive polymer-substrate interaction can slow relaxation in thin supported polymer films and polymer nanocomposites. Recent measurements and simulations on nancomposites have indicated that this slowing of polymer dynamics occurs more strongly near a highly attractive particle surface where a "bound" layer having a much lower mobility can form, strongly influencing the thermodynamics and dynamics of the film. Here we use molecular simulations to show that a bound interfacial layer having a very similar nature arises in thin supported polymer films when the polymer-polymer attraction is stronger than the polymer-polymer interaction strength. This bound polymer layer effectively insulates the remainder of the film from the strong interfacial interactions, and the resulting thermodynamically determined T-g is relatively insensitive to the polymer-substrate interaction strength when it exceeds that of the polymer-polymer interactions. The presence of this layer gives rise to an additional relaxation process in the self-intermediate scattering function that is not observed in the bulk material and leads to a slowing down of the average relaxation time of the film as a whole. On the other hand, the average relaxation time of the film outside the bound layer does not grow in proportion to the strength of the substrate attraction due to the weak coupling of the substrate relaxation to the relaxation in the interior of the film. At large substrate attraction, the bound layer effectively "cloaks" the substrate, reducing the effect of the polymer-surface interaction on Tg. Published by AIP Publishing.

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