Effects of multifunctional cross-linkers on rheology and adhesion of soft nanostructured materials†
We investigate the nanostructure, the rheology and the adhesion of soft supramolecular materials elaborated by blending monofunctional and multifunctional poly(isobutene) (PIB) chains. Monofunctional PIB chains (PIBUT) are linear and unentangled polymer chains (Mn ≈ 3 kg mol−1) functionalized in the middle by a bis-urea interacting moiety, able to self-associate by four hydrogen bonds. Covalent coupling of monofunctional PIB allows us to synthesize longer chains bearing two or three interacting moieties. These chains are then added to monofunctional PIB to prepare blends containing up to 10% of multifunctional PIB (M-PIBUT). The influence of M-PIBUT on the supramolecular nanostructure, which results from the self-assembly of stickers, is studied by Atomic Force Microscopy and Small Angle X-ray Scattering at room temperature. Multifunctional and monofunctional chains are shown to interact with each other to form bundles of rod-like aggregates. The consequences of these interactions on the rheology of the blends were studied by shear tests in the linear and non linear regimes, below and above the order–disorder transition temperature. A pronounced strengthening effect of M-PIBUT is observed at room temperature: the supramolecular blends become more elastic and are more resistant to creep with increasing concentration of M-PIBUT. The effects of M-PIBUT on the nanostructure and the rheology suggest that M-PIBUT, which can link with more than one supramolecular aggregate, plays the role of a physical cross-linker. The impact of these supramolecular cross-linkers on the adhesion of the blends is studied by probe-tack tests and discussed by analyzing the in situ deformation through the debonding images.