Theory and simulation studies of effective interactions, phase behavior and morphology in polymer nanocomposites

V Ganesan and A Jayaraman, SOFT MATTER, 10, 13-38 (2014).

DOI: 10.1039/c3sm51864g

Polymer nanocomposites are a class of materials that consist of a polymer matrix filled with inorganic/organic nanoscale additives that enhance the inherent macroscopic (mechanical, optical and electronic) properties of the polymer matrix. Over the past few decades such materials have received tremendous attention from experimentalists, theoreticians, and computational scientists. These studies have revealed that the macroscopic properties of polymer nanocomposites depend strongly on the (microscopic) morphology of the constituent nanoscale additives in the polymer matrix. As a consequence, intense research efforts have been directed to understand the relationships between interactions, morphology, and the phase behavior of polymer nanocomposites. Theory and simulations have proven to be useful tools in this regard due to their ability to link molecular level features of the polymer and nanoparticle additives to the resulting morphology within the composite. In this article we review recent theory and simulation studies, presenting briefly the methodological developments underlying PRISM theories, density functional theory, self-consistent field theory approaches, and atomistic and coarse-grained molecular simulations. We first discuss the studies on polymer nanocomposites with bare or un- functionalized nanoparticles as additives, followed by a review of recent work on composites containing polymer grafted or functionalized nanoparticles as additives. We conclude each section with a brief outlook on some potential future directions.

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