Uniaxial Deformation and Crazing in Glassy Polymer-Grafted Nanoparticle Ultrathin Films

JG Ethier and LF Drummy and RA Vaia and LM Hall, ACS NANO, 13, 12816-12829 (2019).

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.9b05001

The deformation behavior of neat, glassy polymer-grafted nanoparticle (PGN) monolayer films is studied using coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations and experiments on polystyrene-grafted silica. In both the simulations and experiments, apparent crazing behavior is observed during deformation. The PGN systems show a relatively more uniform, perforated sheet craze structure and significantly higher strain at break than reference homopolymers of the same length. Short chain, unentangled PGN monolayers are also simulated for comparison; these are brittle and break apart without crazing. The entangled PGN simulations are analyzed in detail for systems at both high and moderate graft density. Stress-strain curves show three distinct regions: yielding and strain localization, craze widening, and strain hardening preceding catastrophic failure. The PGN stress-strain behavior appears more similar to that of longer chain, highly entangled homopolymer films than to the reference homopolymer films of the same length as the graft chains, suggesting that the particles effectively add additional entanglement points. The moderate graft density particles have higher strain-to-failure and maximum stress than the high graft density particles. We suggest this increased robustness for lower graft density systems is due to their increased interpenetration of graft chains between neighboring particles, which leads to increased interparticle entanglements per chain.

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