Crosslinking PMMA: Molecular Dynamics Investigation of the Shear Response

K Min and M Silberstein and NR Aluru, JOURNAL OF POLYMER SCIENCE PART B-POLYMER PHYSICS, 52, 444-449 (2014).

DOI: 10.1002/polb.23437

Crosslinking can fundamentally change the mechanical properties of a linear glassy polymer. It has been experimentally observed that when lightly crosslinked, poly(methyl-methacrylate) (PMMA) has a characteristically more ductile response to mechanical loading than does linear PMMA despite having a higher glass transition temperature. Here, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are used to investigate conformational and energetic differences between linear PMMA and lightly crosslinked PMMA under shear deformation. As consistent with experiments, crosslinked PMMA is found to have a reduced yield stress relative to linear PMMA. Using the probing capabilities of our explicit atom MD approach, it is observed that while the crosslinks have a minimal direct energy contribution to the total system, they can alter how the main chains conform to macroscopic loading. In crosslinked PMMA, the backbone aligns more with the direction of external loading, thereby reducing the force applied to (and associated deformation of) the polymer bonds. (c) 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Polym. Sci., Part B: Polym. Phys. 2014, 52, 444-449

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