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Author ORCID ID is 0000000321122587
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  1. Because of the considerable parameter space, efficient theoretical and simulation methods are required to predict the morphology and guide experiments in polymer nanocomposites (PNCs). Unfortunately, theoretical and simulation methods are restricted in their ability to accurately map to experiments based on necessary approximations and numerical limitations. In this study, we provide direct comparisons of two recently developed coarse-grained approaches for modeling polymer nanocomposites (PNCs): polymer nanocomposite field theory (PNC-FT) and dynamic mean-field theory (DMFT). These methods are uniquely suited to efficiently capture mesoscale phase behavior of PNCs in comparison to other theoretical and simulation frameworks. We demonstrate the ability ofmore » both methods to capture macrophase separation and describe the thermodynamics of PNCs. We systematically test how the nanoparticle morphology in PNCs is affected by a uniform probability distribution of grafting sites, common in field-based methods, versus random discrete grafting sites on the nanoparticle surface. We also analyze the accuracy of the mean-field approximation in capturing the phase behavior of PNCs. Moreover, the DMFT method introduces the ability to describe nonequilibrium phase behavior while the PNC-FT method is strictly an equilibrium method. With the DMFT method we are able to show the evolution of nonequilibrium states toward their equilibrium state and a qualitative assessment of the dynamics in these systems. These simulations are compared to experiments consisting of polystyrene grafted gold nanorods in a poly(methyl methacrylate) matrix to ensure the model gives results that qualitatively agree with the experiments. This study reveals that nanoparticles in a relatively high matrix molecular weight are trapped in a nonequilibrium state and demonstrates the utility of the DMFT framework in capturing nonequilibrium phase behavior of PNCs. In conclusion, both the PNC-FT and DMFT framework are promising methods to describe the thermodynamic and nonequilibrium phase behavior of PNCs.« less
  2. Here, we develop and demonstrate a new, hybrid simulation approach for charged fluids, which combines the accuracy of the nonlocal, classical density functional theory (cDFT) with the efficiency of the Poisson–Nernst–Planck (PNP) equations. The approach is motivated by the fact that the more accurate description of the physics in the cDFT model is required only near the charged surfaces, while away from these regions the PNP equations provide an acceptable representation of the ionic system. We formulate the hybrid approach in two stages. The first stage defines a coupled hybrid model in which the PNP and cDFT equations act independentlymore » on two overlapping domains, subject to suitable interface coupling conditions. At the second stage we apply the principles of the alternating Schwarz method to the hybrid model by using the interface conditions to define the appropriate boundary conditions and volume constraints exchanged between the PNP and the cDFT subdomains. Numerical examples with two representative examples of ionic systems demonstrate the numerical properties of the method and its potential to reduce the computational cost of a full cDFT calculation, while retaining the accuracy of the latter near the charged surfaces.« less
  3. We performed atomistic simulations on a series of sulfonated polyphenylenes systematically varying the degree of sulfonation and water content to determine their effect on the nanoscale structure, particularly for the hydrophilic domains formed by the ionic groups and water molecules. We found that the local structure around the ionic groups depended on the sulfonation and hydration levels, with the sulfonate groups and hydronium ions less strongly coupled at higher water contents. In addition, we characterized the morphology of the ionic domains employing two complementary clustering algorithms. At low sulfonation and hydration levels, clusters were more elongated in shape and poorlymore » connected throughout the system. As the degree of sulfonation and water content were increased, the clusters became more spherical, and a fully percolated ionic domain was formed. As a result, these structural details have important implications for ion transport.« less

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