Self-Assembly of Bare/Polymer-Grafted Nanoparticle Blends in Homopolymer

KK Sriramoju and V Padmanabhan, MACROMOLECULAR THEORY AND SIMULATIONS, 25, 582-590 (2016).

DOI: 10.1002/mats.201600063

The self-assembly of a binary blend of nanoparticles in a homopolymer matrix using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations is studied here. The systems consist of polymer matrix, "bare" ungrafted spherical nanoparticles and polymer-grafted nanoparticles, where the particle cores are identical and grafted chains are similar to matrix polymer. It is observed that addition of grafted nanoparticles to a blend of polymer and bare particles can result in the formation of anisotropic structures. By carefully selecting the graft density and molecular weight of the grafted chains, the clusters go from spherical to cylindrical to branched cylinders. This study suggests that it is indeed possible to control the morphology of bare nanoparticles in polymer without directly modifying their surface properties. It is believed that this phenomenon might be of high importance, especially in cases such as polymer-based solar cells, where it is not feasible to graft the nanoparticles with polymer chains to achieve a greater level of control over the morphology.

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