Brownian simulations for tetra-gel-type phantom networks composed of prepolymers with bidisperse arm length†
We studied the effect of arm length contrast of prepolymers on the mechanical properties of tetra-branched networks via Brownian dynamics simulations. We employed a bead-spring model without the excluded volume interactions, and we did not consider the solvent explicitly. Each examined 4-arm star branch prepolymer has uneven arm lengths to attain two-against-two (2a2) or one-against-three (1a3) configurations. The arm length contrast was varied from 38–2 to 20–20 for 2a2, and from 5–25 to 65–5 for 1a3, with the fixed total bead number of 81, including the single bead located at the branch point for prepolymers. We distributed 400 molecules in the simulation box with periodic boundary conditions, and the bead number density was fixed at 4. We created polymer networks by cross-end-coupling of equilibrated tetra-branched prepolymers. To mimic the experiments of tetra gels, we discriminated the molecules into two types and allowed the reaction only between different types of molecules at their end beads. The final conversion ratio was more than 99%, at which unreacted dangling ends are negligible. We found that the fraction of double linkage, in which two of the four arms connect a pair of branch points, increases from 3% to 15% by increasing the arm length contrast. We stretched the resultant tetra-type networks to obtain the ratio of mechanically effective strands. We found that the ratio is 96% for the monodisperse system, decreasing to 90% for high arm length contrast. We introduced bond scission according to the bond stretching to observe the network fracture under sufficiently slow elongation. The fracture behavior was not correlated with the fraction of double linkage because the scission occurs at single linkages.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Polymer Networks