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Characterization of Polymer-Silica Nanocomposite Particles with Core–Shell Morphologies using Monte Carlo Simulations and Small Angle X-ray Scattering

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journal contribution
posted on 05.07.2011, 00:00 by Jennifer A. Balmer, Oleksandr O. Mykhaylyk, Andreas Schmid, Steven P. Armes, J. Patrick A. Fairclough, Anthony J. Ryan
A two-population model based on standard small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) equations is verified for the analysis of core–shell structures comprising spherical colloidal particles with particulate shells. First, Monte Carlo simulations of core–shell structures are performed to demonstrate the applicability of the model. Three possible shell packings are considered: ordered silica shells due to either charge-dependent repulsive or size-dependent Lennard-Jones interactions or randomly arranged silica particles. In most cases, the two-population model produces an excellent fit to calculated SAXS patterns for the simulated core–shell structures, together with a good correlation between the fitting parameters and structural parameters used for the simulation. The limits of application are discussed, and then, this two-population model is applied to the analysis of well-defined core–shell vinyl polymer/silica nanocomposite particles, where the shell comprises a monolayer of spherical silica nanoparticles. Comprehensive SAXS analysis of a series of poly(styrene-co-n-butyl acrylate)/silica colloidal nanocomposite particles (prepared by the in situ emulsion copolymerization of styrene and n-butyl acrylate in the presence of a glycerol-functionalized silica sol) allows the overall core–shell particle diameter, the copolymer latex core diameter and polydispersity, the mean silica shell thickness, the mean silica diameter and polydispersity, the volume fractions of the two components, the silica packing density, and the silica shell structure to be obtained. These experimental SAXS results are consistent with electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering, thermogravimetry, helium pycnometry, and BET surface area studies. The high electron density contrast between the (co)polymer and the silica components, together with the relatively low polydispersity of these core–shell nanocomposite particles, makes SAXS ideally suited for the characterization of this system. Moreover, these results can be generalized for other types of core–shell colloidal particles.