Effects of polymer–nanoparticle interactions on the viscosity of unentangled polymers under extreme nanoconfinement during capillary rise infiltration†
We explore the effect of confinement and polymer–nanoparticle interactions on the viscosity of unentangled polymers undergoing capillary rise infiltration (CaRI) in dense packings of nanoparticles. In CaRI, a polymer is thermally induced to wick into the dense packings of nanoparticles, leading to the formation of polymer-infiltrated nanoparticle films, a new class of thin film nanocomposites with extremely high concentrations of nanoparticles. To understand the effect of this extreme nanoconfinement, as well as polymer–nanoparticle interactions on the polymer viscosity in CaRI films, we use two polymers that are known to have very different interactions with SiO2 nanoparticles. Using in situ spectroscopic ellipsometry, we monitor the polymer infiltration process, from which we infer the polymer viscosity based on the Lucas–Washburn model. Our results suggest that physical confinement increases the viscosity by approximately two orders of magnitude. Furthermore, confinement also increases the glass transition temperature of both polymers. Thus, under extreme nanoconfinement, the physical confinement has a more significant impact than the polymer–nanoparticle interactions on the viscosity of unentangled polymers, measured through infiltration dynamics, as well as the glass transition temperature. These findings will provide fundamental frameworks for designing processes to enable the fabrication of CaRI nanocomposite films with a wide range of nanoparticles and polymers.
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