Understanding Gas Transport in Polymer-Grafted Nanoparticle Assemblies.

TitleUnderstanding Gas Transport in Polymer-Grafted Nanoparticle Assemblies.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsCR Bilchak, M Jhalaria, S Adhikari, J Midya, Y Huang, Z Abbas, A Nikoubashman, BC Benicewicz, M Rubinstein, and SK Kumar
Start Page3011
Pagination3011 - 3019
Date Published04/2022

We rationalize the unusual gas transport behavior of polymer-grafted nanoparticle (GNP) membranes. While gas permeabilities depend specifically on the chemistry of the polymers considered, we focus here on permeabilities relative to the corresponding pure polymer which show interesting, "universal" behavior. For a given NP radius, R<sub>c</sub>, and for large enough areal grafting densities, σ, to be in the dense brush regime we find that gas permeability enhancements display a maximum as a function of the graft chain molecular weight, M<sub>n</sub>. Based on a recently proposed theory for the structure of a spherical brush in a melt of GNPs, we conjecture that this peak permeability occurs when the densely grafted polymer brush has the highest, packing-induced extension free energy per chain. The corresponding brush thickness is predicted to be hmax=3Rc , independent of chain chemistry and σ, i.e., at an apparently universal value of the NP volume fraction (or loading), ϕ<sub>NP</sub>, ϕ<sub>NP,max</sub> = [R<sub>c</sub>/(R<sub>c</sub> + h<sub>max</sub>)]<sup>3</sup> ≈ 0.049. Motivated by this conclusion, we measured CO<sub>-2</sub> and CH<sub>4</sub> permeability enhancements across a variety of R<sub>c</sub>, M<sub>n</sub> and σ, and find that they behave in a similar manner when considered as a function of ϕ<sub>NP</sub>, with a peak in the near vicinity of the predicted ϕ<sub>NP,max</sub>. Thus, the chain length dependent extension free energy appears to be the critical variable in determining the gas permeability for these hybrid materials. The emerging picture is that these curved polymer brushes, at high enough σ behave akin to a two-layer transport medium - the region in the near vicinity of the NP surface is comprised of extended polymer chains which speed-up gas transport relative to the unperturbed melt. The chain extension free energy increases with increasing chain length, up to a maximum, and apparently leads to an increasing gas permeability. For long enough grafts, there is an outer region of chain segments that is akin to an unperturbed melt with slow gas transport. The permeability maximum and decreasing permeability with increasing chain length then follow naturally.

Short TitleMacromolecules