Spatial Dependence of Non-Gaussian Diffusion of Nanoparticles in Free- Standing Thin Polymer Films

J Jung and T Kwon and Y Oh and YR Lee and BJ Sung, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 123, 9250-9259 (2019).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.9b07236

The addition of nanoparticles (NPs) to a freestanding polymer film affects the properties of the film such as viscosity and glass transition temperature. Recent experiments, for example, showed that the glass transition temperature of thin polymer films was dependent on how NPs were distributed within the polymer films. However, the spatial arrangement of NPs in free-standing polymer films and its effect on the diffusion of NPs and polymers remain elusive at a molecular level. In this study, we employ generic coarse-grained models for polymers and NPs and perform extensive molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the diffusion of polymers and NPs in free-standing thin polymer films. We find that small NPs are likely to stay at the interfacial region of the polymer film, while large NPs tend to stay at the center of the film. On the other hand, as the interaction between a NP and a monomer becomes more attractive, the NP is more likely to be placed at the film center. The diffusion of monomers slows down slightly as more NPs are added to the film. Interestingly, the NP diffusion is dependent strongly on the spatial arrangement of the NPs: NPs at the interfacial region diffuse faster and undergo more non-Gaussian diffusion than NPs at the film center, which implies that the interfacial region would be more mobile and dynamically heterogeneous than the film center. We also find that the mechanism for non-Gaussian diffusion of NPs at the film center differs from that at the interfacial region and that the NP diffusion would reflect the local viscosity of the polymer films.

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