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Author ORCID ID is 0000000252609788
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  1. Ordering nanoparticles into a desired super-structure is often crucial for their technological applications. We use molecular dynamics simulations to study the assembly of nanoparticles in a polymer brush randomly grafted to a planar surface as the solvent evaporates. Initially, the nanoparticles are dispersed in a solvent that wets the polymer brush. After the solvent evaporates, the nanoparticles are either inside the brush or adsorbed at the surface of the brush, depending on the strength of the nanoparticle-polymer interaction. For strong nanoparticle-polymer interactions, a 2-dimensional ordered array is only formed when the brush density is finely tuned to accommodate a singlemore » layer of nanoparticles. When the brush density is higher or lower than this optimal value, the distribution of nanoparticles shows large fluctuations in space and the packing order diminishes. For weak nanoparticle-polymer interactions, the nanoparticles order into a hexagonal array on top of the polymer brush as long as the grafting density is high enough to yield a dense brush. As a result, an interesting healing effect is observed for a low-grafting-density polymer brush that can become more uniform in the presence of weakly adsorbed nanoparticles.« less
    Cited by 1
  2. The crazing behavior of polymer nanocomposites formed by blending polymer grafted nanoparticles with an entangled polymer melt is studied by molecular dynamics simulations. We focus on the three key differences in the crazing behavior of a composite relative to the pure homopolymer matrix, namely, a lower yield stress, a smaller extension ratio, and a grafted chain length dependent failure stress. The yield behavior is found to be mostly controlled by the local nanoparticle-grafted polymer interfacial energy, with the grafted polymer-polymer matrix interfacial structure being of little to no relevance. Increasing the attraction between nanoparticle core and the grafted polymer inhibitsmore » void nucleation and leads to a higher yield stress. In the craze growth regime, the presence of “grafted chain” sections of ≈100 monomers alters the mechanical response of composite samples, giving rise to smaller extension ratios and higher drawing stresses than for the homopolymer matrix. As a result, the dominant failure mechanism of composite samples depends strongly on the length of the grafted chains, with disentanglement being the dominant mechanism for short chains, while bond breaking is the failure mode for chain lengths >10N e, where N e is the entanglement length.« less
  3. Controlling polymer viscosity and flow is key to their many applications through strength and processability. The topology of the polymer i.e., linear, stars, and branched, affects the macroscopic flow characteristics of melts, where introducing one branch is sufficient to increase the viscosity significantly. While a number of studies have probed the effects of polymer topology on their rheology, the molecular understanding that underlies the macroscopic behavior remains an open question. The current study uses molecular dynamics simulations to resolve the effects of topology of polymer melts on chain mobility and viscosity in the comb regime using polyethylene as a modelmore » system. A coarse-grained model where four methylene groups constitute one bead is used, and the results are transposed to the atomistic level. Here, we find that while the number of branches only slightly affects the chain mobility and viscosity, their length strongly impacts their behavior. Finally, the results are discussed in terms of interplay between the relaxation of the branches and reptation of the backbone where the topology of the polymer affects the tube dimensions.« less
  4. The temperature response of luminescent ionizable polymers confined into far from equilibrium nanoparticles without chemical links was studied using molecular dynamics simulations. These nanoparticles, often referred to as polydots, are emerging as a promising tool for nanomedicine. Incorporating ionizable groups into these polymers enables biofunctionality; however, they also affect the delicate balance of interactions that hold these nanoparticles together. Here polydots formed by a model polymer dialkyl p-phenylene ethynylene with varying number of carboxylate groups along the polymer backbone were probed. We find that increasing temperature affects neutral and charged polydots differently, where neutral polydots exhibit a transition above whichmore » their structure becomes dynamic and they unravel. The dependence of the transition temperature on the surface to volume ratio of these polydots is much stronger than what has previously been observed in polymeric thin films. In conclusion, charged polydots become dynamic enabling migration of the ionizable groups toward the particle interface, while retaining the overall particle shape.« less
  5. Large scale molecular dynamics simulations for bidisperse nanoparticle suspensions with an explicit solvent are used to investigate the effects of evaporation rates and volume fractions on the nanoparticle distribution during drying. Our results show that “small-on-top” stratification can occur when Pe sΦ s ≳ c with c ~1, where Pe s is the Péclet number and Φ s is the volume fraction of the smaller particles. This threshold of Pe sΦ s for “small-on-top” is larger by a factor of ~α 2 than the prediction of the model treating solvent as an implicit viscous background, where α is the sizemore » ratio between the large and small particles. Our simulations further show that when the evaporation rate of the solvent is reduced, the “small-on-top” stratification can be enhanced, which is not predicted by existing theories. This unexpected behavior is explained with thermophoresis associated with a positive gradient of solvent density caused by evaporative cooling at the liquid/vapor interface. For ultrafast evaporation the gradient is large and drives the nanoparticles toward the liquid/vapor interface. This phoretic effect is stronger for larger nanoparticles, and consequently the “small-on-top” stratification becomes more distinct when the evaporation rate is slower (but not too slow such that a uniform distribution of nanoparticles in the drying film is produced), as thermophoresis that favors larger particles on the top is mitigated. A similar effect can lead to “large-on-top” stratification for Pe sΦ s above the threshold when Pe s is large but Φ s is small. Lastly, our results reveal the importance of including the solvent explicitly when modeling evaporation-induced particle separation and organization and point to the important role of density gradients brought about by ultrafast evaporation.« less
    Cited by 1
  6. Structure and dynamics of melts of copolymers with an ABCBA topology, where C is an ionizable block, have been studied by fully atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Introducing an ionizable block for functionality adds a significant element to the coupled set of interactions that determine the structure and dynamics of the macromolecule. The polymer consists of a randomly sulfonated polystyrene C block tethered to a flexible poly(ethylene-r-propylene) bridge B and end-capped with poly(tert-butylstyrene) A. The chemical structure and topology of these polymers constitute a model for incorporation of ionic blocks within a framework that provides tactility and mechanical stability. Heremore » in this paper we resolve the structure and dynamics of a structured polymer on the nanoscale constrained by ionic clusters. We find that the melts form intertwined networks of the A and C blocks independent of the degree of sulfonation of the C block with no long-range order. The cluster cohesiveness and morphology affect both macroscopic translational motion and segmental dynamics of all the blocks.« less
  7. Controlling the structure and dynamics of thin films of ionizable polymers at water interfaces is critical to their many applications. As the chemical diversity within one polymer is increased, controlling the structure and dynamics of the polymer, which is a key to their use, becomes a challenge. Here molecular dynamics simulations (MD) are used to obtain molecular insight into the structure and dynamics of thin films of one such macromolecule at the interface with water. The polymer consists of an ABCBA topology with randomly sulfonated polystyrene (C), tethered symmetrically to flexible poly(ethylene- r-propylene) blocks (B), and end-capped by a poly(more » t-butylstyrene) block (A). The compositions of the interfacial and bulk regions of thin films of the ABCBA polymers are followed as a function of exposure time to water. We find that interfacial rearrangements take place where buried ionic segments migrate toward the water interface. The hydrophobic blocks collapse and rearrange to minimize their exposure to water. In conclusion, the water that initially drives interfacial reengagements breaks the ionic clusters within the film, forming a dynamic hydrophilic internal network within the hydrophobic segments.« less
  8. Long-lived soft nanoparticles, formed by conjugated polymers, constitute a new class of far-from-equilibrium responsive structures for nano-medicine. Tethering ionizable groups to the polymers enables functionality. However concurrently, the ionic groups perturb the delicate balance of interactions that governs these particles. Using fully atomistic molecular dynamics simulations, this study probed the effects of charged groups tethered to poly para phenylene ethynylene substituted by alkyl groups on the polymer conformation and dynamics in confined geometry. As a result, we find that the ionizable groups affect the entire shape of the polydots and impact the conformation and dynamics of the polymer.
  9. The distinctive viscoelastic behavior of polymers results from a coupled interplay of motion on multiple length and time scales. Capturing the broad time and length scales of polymer motion remains a challenge. Using polyethylene (PE) as a model macromolecule, we construct coarse-grained (CG) models of PE with three to six methyl groups per CG bead and probe two critical aspects of the technique: pressure corrections required after iterative Boltzmann inversion (IBI) to generate CG potentials that match the pressure of reference fully atomistic melt simulations and the transferability of CG potentials across temperatures. While IBI produces nonbonded pair potentials thatmore » give excellent agreement between the atomistic and CG pair correlation functions, the resulting pressure for the CG models is large compared with the pressure of the atomistic system. We find that correcting the potential to match the reference pressure leads to nonbonded interactions with much deeper minima and slightly smaller effective bead diameter. However, simulations with potentials generated by IBI and pressure-corrected IBI result in similar mean-square displacements (MSDs) and stress autocorrelation functions G( t) for PE melts. While the time rescaling factor required to match CG and atomistic models is the same for pressure- and non-pressure-corrected CG models, it strongly depends on temperature. Furthermore, transferability was investigated by comparing the MSDs and stress autocorrelation functions for potentials developed at different temperatures.« less
  10. The self-assembly of multiblock copolymers in solutions is controlled by a delicate balance between inherent phase segregation due to incompatibility of the blocks and the interaction of the individual blocks with the solvent. The current study elucidates the association of pentablock copolymers in a mixture of selective solvents which are good for the hydrophobic segments and poor for the hydrophilic blocks using small angle neutron scattering (SANS). The pentablock consists of a center block of randomly sulfonated polystyrene, designed for transport, tethered to poly-ethylene-r-propylene and end-capped by poly-t-butyl styrene, for mechanical stability. We find that the pentablock forms ellipsoidal core-shellmore » micelles with the sulfonated polystyrene in the core and Gaussian decaying chains of swollen poly-ethylene-r-propylene and poly-t-butyl styrene tertiary in the corona. With increasing solution concentration, the size of the micelle, the thickness of the corona, and the aggregation number increase, while the solvent fraction in the core decreases. As a result, in dilute solution the micelle increases in size as the temperature is increased, however, temperature effects dissipate with increasing solution concentration.« less

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