Controlling the Location of Bare Nanoparticles in Polymer-Nanoparticle Blend Films by Adding Polymer-Grafted Nanoparticles

KK Sriramoju and V Padmanabhan, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 114, 258301 (2015).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.258301

We present molecular dynamics simulations of polymer-nanoparticle blends in films containing both grafted and ungrafted nanoparticles where the particle cores are identical and grafted chains are similar to a matrix polymer. Our results indicate that it is possible to control the location of bare nanoparticles in the film by adding small amounts of polymer-grafted nanoparticles. In the presence of a substrate, bare particles are entropically pushed to the surface. We observed that the introduction of grafted particles to the blend prevents the migration of bare particles to the surface. This unusual behavior is caused by the formation of binary aspherical clusters due to the presence of grafted particles. Hence, parameters including grafting density and the length of the grafted polymer play a significant role in dictating the spatial arrangement of bare particles in the blend film. At higher values of these parameters, the grafted particle core is shielded from depletion attractions causing the density of bare particles to increase back near the surface.

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