Atomistic Modeling of the Formation of a Thermoset/Thermoplastic Interphase during Co-Curing

M Laurien and B Demir and H Buttemeyer and AS Herrmann and TR Walsh and LC Ciacchi, MACROMOLECULES, 51, 3983-3993 (2018).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.8b00736

Co-curing of a thermoset epoxy matrix in contact with thermoplastic foils is an essential step in damage-free joining of polymers or polymer-based composites. We present results of all-atom molecular dynamics simulations that shed light onto the resulting hybrid interface. Using poly(vinylidene difluoride) (PVDF) and a multicomponent epoxy resin as model systems, we have developed a computational co- curing protocol that ensures both adequate structural representation and mobility of the PVDF chains and a realistic cross-linking conversion and topology of the epoxy resin. As a result, we reveal that mutually entangled loops of thermoplastic chains and resin strands form across the interface within the extended interphase region separating the two polymers. In tensile stress simulations we find that these loops contribute to a surprisingly large interfacial strength. In the absence of extrinsic defects, failures nucleate at the PVDF side of the interphase and propagate via a chain-pullout mechanism characteristic of semi-interpenetrating polymer networks involving thermoplastic materials.

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