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Issue 12, 2018
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Tailoring the mechanical properties by molecular integration of flexible and stiff polymer networks

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Abstract

Designing a multiple-network structure at the molecular level to tailor the mechanical properties of polymeric materials is of great scientific and technological importance. Through the coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulation, we successfully construct an interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) composed of a flexible polymer network and a stiff polymer network. First, we find that there is an optimal chain stiffness for a single network (SN) to achieve the best stress–strain behavior. Then we turn to study the mechanical behaviors of IPNs. The result shows that the stress–strain behaviors of the IPNs appreciably exceed the sum of that of the corresponding single flexible and stiff network, which highlights the advantage of the IPN structure. By systematically varying the stiffness of the stiff polymer network of the IPNs, optimal stiffness also exists to achieve the best performance. We attribute this to a much larger contribution of the non-bonded interaction energy. Last, the effect of the component concentration ratio is probed. With the increase of the concentration of the flexible network, the stress–strain behavior of the IPNs is gradually enhanced, while an optimized concentration (around 60% molar ration) of the stiff network occurs, which could result from the dominant role of the enthalpy rather than the entropy. In general, our work is expected to provide some guidelines to better tailor the mechanical properties of the IPNs made of a flexible network and a stiff network, by manipulating the stiffness of the stiff polymer network and the component concentration ratio.

Graphical abstract: Tailoring the mechanical properties by molecular integration of flexible and stiff polymer networks

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Publication details

The article was received on 20 Nov 2017, accepted on 16 Feb 2018 and first published on 17 Feb 2018


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7SM02282D
Citation: Soft Matter, 2018,14, 2379-2390
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    Tailoring the mechanical properties by molecular integration of flexible and stiff polymer networks

    H. Wan, J. Shen, N. Gao, J. Liu, Y. Gao and L. Zhang, Soft Matter, 2018, 14, 2379
    DOI: 10.1039/C7SM02282D

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