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Disentangling the Role of Chain Conformation on the Mechanics of Polymer Tethered Particle Materials

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journal contribution
posted on 26.03.2019, 00:00 by Jiarul Midya, Yu Cang, Sergei A. Egorov, Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, Michael R. Bockstaller, Arash Nikoubashman, George Fytas
The linear elastic properties of isotropic materials of polymer tethered nanoparticles (NPs) are evaluated using noncontact Brillouin light spectroscopy. While the mechanical properties of dense brush materials follow predicted trends with NP composition, a surprising increase in elastic moduli is observed in the case of sparsely grafted particle systems at approximately equal NP filling ratio. Complementary molecular dynamics simulations reveal that the stiffening is caused by the coil-like conformations of the grafted chains, which lead to stronger polymer–polymer interactions compared to densely grafted NPs with short chains. Our results point to novel opportunities to enhance the physical properties of composite materials by the strategic design of the “molecular architecture” of constituents to benefit from synergistic effects relating to the organization of the polymer component.