Correlating Free-Volume Hole Distribution to the Glass Transition Temperature of Epoxy Polymers

A Aramoon and TD Breitzman and C Woodward and JA El-Awady, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 121, 8399-8407 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.7b04147

A new algorithm is developed to quantify the free-volume hole distribution and its evolution in coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations of polymeric networks. This is achieved by analyzing the geometry of the network rather than a voxelized image of the structure to accurately and efficiently find and quantify free-volume hole distributions within large scale simulations of polymer networks. The free-volume holes are quantified by fitting the largest ellipsoids and spheres in the free volumes between polymer chains. The free-volume hole distributions calculated from this algorithm are shown to be in excellent agreement with those measured from positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS) experiments at different temperature and pressures. Based on the results predicted using this algorithm, an evolution model is proposed for the thermal behavior of an individual free-volume hole. This model is calibrated such that the average radius of free-volumes holes mimics the one predicted from the simulations. The model is then employed to predict the glass-transition temperature of epoxy polymers with different degrees of cross-linking and lengths of prepolymers. Comparison between the predicted glass-transition temperatures and those measured from simulations or experiments implies that this model is capable of successfully predicting the glass- transition temperature of the material using only a PDF of the initial free-volume holes radii of each microstructure. This provides an effective approach for the optimized design of polymeric systems on the basis of the glass-transition temperature, degree of cross linking, and average length of prepolymers.

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