Effects of Tethered Polymers on Dynamics of Nanoparticles in Unentangled Polymer Melts

TitleEffects of Tethered Polymers on Dynamics of Nanoparticles in Unentangled Polymer Melts
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsT Ge, M Rubinstein, and GS Grest
Start Page6898
Pagination6898 - 6906
Date Published08/2020

Polymer-tethered nanoparticles (NPs) are commonly added to a polymer matrix to improve the material properties. Critical to the fabrication and processing of such composites is the mobility of the tethered NPs. Here, we study the motion of tethered NPs in unentangled polymer melts using molecular dynamics simulations, which offer a precise control of the grafted chain length Ng and the number z of grafted chains per particle. As Ng increases, there is a crossover from particle-dominated to tethered-chain-dominated terminal diffusion of NPs with the same z. The mean squared displacement of loosely tethered NPs in the case of tethered-chain-dominated terminal diffusion exhibits two subdiffusive regimes at intermediate time scales for small z. The first one at shorter time scales arises from the dynamical coupling of the particle and matrix chains, while the one at longer time scales is due to the participation of the particle in the dynamics of the tethered chains. The friction of loosely grafted chains in unentangled melts scales linearly with the total number of monomers in the chains, as the friction of individual monomers is additive in the absence of hydrodynamic coupling. As more chains are grafted to a particle, hydrodynamic interactions between grafted chains emerge. As a result, there is a nondraining layer of hydrodynamically coupled chain segments surrounding the bare particle. Outside the nondraining layer is a free-draining layer of grafted chain segments with no hydrodynamic coupling. The boundary of the two layers is the stick surface where the shear stress due to the relative melt flow is balanced by the friction between the grafted and melt chains in the interpenetration layer. The stick surface is located further away from the bare surface of the particle with higher grafting density.

Short TitleMacromolecules