Network dynamics in nanofilled polymers

TitleNetwork dynamics in nanofilled polymers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBaeza, G, Dessi, C, Constanzo, S, Zhao, D, Gong, S, Alegria, A, Colby, RH, Rubinstein, M, Vlassopoulos, D, Kumar, SK
JournalNature Communications
Date Published04/2016

It is well accepted that adding nanoparticles (NPs) to polymer melts can result in significant property improvements. Here we focus on the causes of mechanical reinforcement and present rheological measurements on favourably interacting mixtures of spherical silica NPs and poly(2-vinylpyridine), complemented by several dynamic and structural probes. While the system dynamics are polymer-like with increased friction for low silica loadings, they turn network-like when the mean face-to-face separation between NPs becomes smaller than the entanglement tube diameter. Gel-like dynamics with a Williams–Landel–Ferry temperature dependence then result. This dependence turns particle dominated, that is, Arrhenius-like, when the silica loading increases to ~31 vol%, namely, when the average nearest distance between NP faces becomes comparable to the polymer’s Kuhn length. Our results demonstrate that the flow properties of nanocomposites are complex and can be tuned via changes in filler loading, that is, the character of polymer bridges which ‘tie’ NPs together into a network.