Interfacial load transfer mechanisms in carbon nanotube-polymer nanocomposites
S Bagchi and A Harpale and HB Chew, PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A-MATHEMATICAL PHYSICAL AND ENGINEERING SCIENCES, 474, 20170705 (2018).
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are highly promising for strength reinforcement in polymer nanocomposites, but conflicting interfacial properties have been reported by single nanotube pull-out experiments. Here, we report the interfacial load transfer mechanisms during pull-out of CNTs from PMMA matrices, using massively- parallel molecular dynamics simulations. We show that the pullout forces associated with non-bonded interactions between CNT and PMMA are generally small, and are weakly-dependent on the embedment length of the nanotube. These pull-out forces do not significantly increase with the presence of Stone Wales or vacancy defects along the nanotube. In contrast, low-density distribution of cross-links along the CNT-PMMA interface increases the pull-out forces by an order of magnitude. At each cross-linked site, mechanical unfolding and pull-out of single or pair polymer chain(s) attached to the individual cross-link bonds result in substantial interfacial strengthening and toughening, while contributing to interfacial slip between CNT and PIVIMA. Our interfacial shear-slip model shows that the interfacial loads are evenly distributed among the finite number of cross-link bonds at low cross-link densities or for nanotubes with short embedment lengths. At higher cross-link densities or for nanotubes with longer embedment lengths, a no-slip zone now develops where shear lag effects become important. Implications of these results, in the context of recent nanotube pull-out experiments, are discussed.
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