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  1. A telechelic hydrogen-bonding PDMS exhibits properties of a dual network despite containing only one type of end-group.
  2. In recent years it has become clear that the interfacial layer formed around nanoparticles in polymer nanocomposites (PNCs) is critical for controlling their macroscopic properties. The interfacial layer occupies a significant volume fraction of the polymer matrix in PNCs and creates strong intrinsic heterogeneity in their structure and dynamics. In this paper, we focus on analysis of the structure and dynamics of the interfacial region in model PNCs with well-dispersed, spherical nanoparticles with attractive interactions. First, we discuss several experimental techniques that provide structural and dynamic information on the interfacial region in PNCs. Then, we discuss the role of variousmore » microscopic parameters in controlling structure and dynamics of the interfacial layer. The analysis presented emphasizes the importance of the polymer-nanoparticle interactions for the slowing down dynamics in the interfacial region, while the thickness of the interfacial layer appears to be dependent on chain rigidity, and has been shown to increase with cooling upon approaching the glass transition. Aside from chain rigidity and polymer-nanoparticle interactions, the interfacial layer properties are also affected by the molecular weight of the polymer and the size of the nanoparticles. Finally, in the last part of this focus article, we emphasize the important challenges in the field of polymer nanocomposites and a potential analogy with the behavior observed in thin films.« less
  3. Broadband dielectric spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, and rheology were employed to study the impact of hydrogen (H)-bonding end-groups on segmental and chain dynamics of telechelic polypropylene glycol (PPG) and poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS). Polymer chains with three types of H-bonding end-groups possessing different interaction strengths and a non-H-bonding end-group as reference were compared. The glass transition temperature (Tg) of H-bonding PPG systems with low molecular weight increases compared to the reference, and the Tg difference varies with chain-end interaction strength. In contrast, their shear viscosities (for Tg-scaled temperature, i.e., when the shift in Tg is accounted for) are similar to that onemore » of the reference. This is in strong contrast to the behavior of telechelic PDMS with the same set of end-groups, where the Tg increase of all H-bonding systems is independent of H-bond strengths, while shear viscosity increases significantly only for the strongest H-bonding end-groups. These observations are explained by the difference in lifetime of the end-group associations relative to segmental and chain relaxation times.« less
  4. The self-diffusion of a single large particle in a fluid is usually described by the classic Stokes–Einstein (SE) hydrodynamic relation. However, there are many fluids where the SE prediction for nanoparticles diffusion fails. These systems include diffusion of nanoparticles in porous media, in entangled and unentangled polymer melts and solutions, and protein diffusion in biological environments. A fundamental understanding of the microscopic parameters that govern nanoparticle diffusion is relevant to a wide range of applications. Here in this work, we present experimental measurements of the tracer diffusion coefficient of small and large nanoparticles that experience strong attractions with unentangled andmore » entangled polymer melt matrices. For the small nanoparticle system, a crossover from suppressed to enhanced diffusion is observed with increasing polymer molecular weight. We interpret these observations based on our theoretical and simulation insights of the preceding article (paper 1) as a result of a crossover from an effective hydrodynamic core–shell to a nonhydrodynamic vehicle mechanism of transport, with the latter strongly dependent on polymer–nanoparticle desorption time. In conclusion, a general zeroth-order qualitative picture for small sticky nanoparticle diffusion in polymer melts is proposed.« less
  5. The modification of polymer dynamics in the presence of strongly interacting nanoparticles has been shown to significantly change themacroscopic properties above the glass transition temperature of polymer nanocomposites (PNCs). However, much less attention has been paid to changes in the dynamics of glassy PNCs. Analysis of neutron and light scattering data presented herein reveals a surprising enhancement of local dynamics, e.g., fast picosecond and secondary relaxations, in glassy PNCs accompanied with a strengthening of mechanical modulus. Here we ascribe this counter-intuitive behavior to the complex interplay between chain packing and stretching within the interfacial layer formed at the polymer-nanoparticle interface.
  6. All acrylic-based thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) offer potential alternatives to the widely-used styrenic TPEs. However, the high entanglement molecular weight ( M e) of polyacrylates, as compared to polydienes, leads to “disappointing” mechanical performance as compared to styrenic TPEs. In this study, triblock copolymers composed of alkyl acrylates with different pendant groups and different glass transition temperatures ( T gs), i.e. 1-adamatyl acrylate (AdA) and tetrahydrofurfuryl acrylate (THFA), were synthesized via reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. Thermal characterization of the resulting polymers was performed using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and the T gs of both segments were observed for themore » block copolymers. This indication of microphase separation behavior was further demonstrated using atomic-force microscopy (AFM) and small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). Dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) showed that the softening temperature of the PAdA domains is 123 °C, which is higher than that of both styrenic TPEs and commercial acrylic based TPEs with poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) hard block. Here, the resulting triblock copolymers also exhibited stress–strain behavior superior to that of conventional all acrylic-based TPEs composed of PMMA and poly( n-butyl acrylate) (PBA) made by controlled radical processes, while the tensile strength was lower than for products made by living anionic polymerization.« less
  7. Conductivity in polymer electrolytes has been generally discussed with the assumption that the segmental motions control charge transport. However, much less attention has been paid to the mechanism of ion conductivity where the motions of ions are less dependent (decoupled) on segmental dynamics. We present that this phenomenon is observed in ionic materials as they approach their glass transition temperature and becomes essential for design and development of highly conducting solid polymer electrolytes. In this paper, we study the effect of chain rigidity on the decoupling of ion transport from segmental motion in three polymerized ionic liquids (polyILs) containing themore » same cation–anion pair but differing in flexibility of the polymer backbones and side groups. Analysis of dielectric and rheology data reveals that decoupling is strong in vinyl-based rigid polymers while almost negligible in novel siloxane-based flexible polyILs. To explain this behavior, we investigated ion and chain dynamics at ambient and elevated pressure. Our results suggest that decoupling has a direct relationship to the frustration in chain packing and free volume. Finally, these conclusions are also supported by coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations.« less
  8. Here, polymer membranes with the capability to process a massive volume of gas are especially attractive for practical applications of gas separation. Although much effort has been devoted to develop novel polymer membranes with increased selectivity, the overall gas-separation performance and lifetime of membrane are still negatively affected by the weak mechanical performance, low plasticization resistance and poor physical aging tolerance. Recently, elastic polymer membranes with tunable mechanical properties have been attracting significant attentions due to their tremendous potential applications. Herein, we report a series of urethanerich PDMS-based polymer networks (U-PDMS-NW) with improved mechanical performance for gas separation. The cross-linkmore » density of U-PDMS-NWs is tailored by varying the molecular weight ( M n) of PDMS. The U-PDMS-NWs show up to 400% elongation and tunable Young’s modulus (1.3–122.2 MPa), ultimate tensile strength (1.1–14.3 MPa), and toughness (0.7–24.9 MJ/m 3). All of the U-PDMS-NWs exhibit salient gas-separation performance with excellent thermal resistance and aging tolerance, high gas permeability (>100 Barrer), and tunable gas selectivity (up to α[ P CO2/ P N2] ≈ 41 and α[ P CO2/ P CH4] ≈ 16). With well-controlled mechanical properties and gas-separation performance, these U-PDMS-NW can be used as a polymermembrane platform not only for gas separation but also for other applications such as microfluidic channels and stretchable electronic devices.« less

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