skip to main content

Title: Polymers on nanoparticles: structure & dynamics
Grafting polymers to nanoparticle surfaces influences properties from the conformation of the polymer chains to the dispersion and assembly of nanoparticles within a polymeric material. Recently, a small body of work has begun to address the question of how grafting polymers to a nanoparticle surface impacts chain dynamics, and the resulting physical properties of a material. This Review discusses recent work that characterizes the structure and dynamics of polymers that are grafted to nanoparticles and opportunities for future research. Starting from the case of a single polymer chain attached to a nanoparticle core, this Review follows the structure of the chains as grafting density increases, and how this structure slows relaxation of polymer chains and affects macroscopic material properties.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Soft Matter
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1120 to 1134
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Although the behavior of single chains is integral to the foundation of polymer science, a clear and convincing image of single chains in the solid state has still not been captured. For bottlebrush polymers, understanding their conformation in bulk materials is especially important because their extended backbones may explain their self-assembly and mechanical properties that have been attractive for many applications. Here, single-bottlebrush chains are visualized using single-molecule localization microscopy to study their conformations in a polymer melt composed of linear polymers. By observing bottlebrush polymers with different side chain lengths and grafting densities, we observe the relationship between molecular architecture and conformation. We show that bottlebrushes are significantly more rigid in the solid state than previously measured in solution, and the scaling relationships between persistence length and side chain length deviate from those predicted by theory and simulation. We discuss these discrepancies using mechanisms inspired by polymer-grafted nanoparticles, a conceptually similar system. Our work provides a platform for visualizing single-polymer chains in an environment made up entirely of other polymers, which could answer a number of open questions in polymer science.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Synthesizing patchy particles with predictive control over patch size, shape, placement and number has been highly sought-after for nanoparticle assembly research, but is fraught with challenges. Here we show that polymers can be designed to selectively adsorb onto nanoparticle surfaces already partially coated by other chains to drive the formation of patchy nanoparticles with broken symmetry. In our model system of triangular gold nanoparticles and polystyrene-b-polyacrylic acid patch, single- and double-patch nanoparticles are produced at high yield. These asymmetric single-patch nanoparticles are shown to assemble into self-limited patch‒patch connected bowties exhibiting intriguing plasmonic properties. To unveil the mechanism of symmetry-breaking patch formation, we develop a theory that accurately predicts our experimental observations at all scales—from patch patterning on nanoparticles, to the size/shape of the patches, to the particle assemblies driven by patch‒patch interactions. Both the experimental strategy and theoretical prediction extend to nanoparticles of other shapes such as octahedra and bipyramids. Our work provides an approach to leverage polymer interactions with nanoscale curved surfaces for asymmetric grafting in nanomaterials engineering.

    more » « less
  3. Naturally occurring nanocomposites like nacre owe their exceptional mechanical properties to high loadings of platelets that are bridged by small volume fractions of polymers. Polymer infiltration into dense assemblies of nanoparticles provides a powerful and potentially scalable approach to manufacture bio-inspired nanocomposites that mimic nacre's architecture. Solvent-driven infiltration of polymers (SIP) into nanoparticle packings formed on top of glassy polymer films is induced via capillary condensation of a solvent in the interstitial voids between nanoparticles (NP), followed by plasticization and transport of polymers into the liquid-filled pores, leading to the formation of the nanocomposite structure. To understand the effect of polymer–nanoparticle interactions on the dynamics of polymer infiltration in SIP, we perform molecular dynamics simulations. The mechanism of polymer infiltration and the influence of interactions between polymer and NPs on the dynamics of the process are investigated. Depending on the strength of interaction, polymer infiltration either follows (a) dissolution-dominated infiltration where plasticized polymer chains remain solvated in the pores and rapidly diffuse into the packing or (b) adhesion-dominated transport where the chains adsorb onto the nanoparticle surface and move slowly through the nanoparticle film as a well-defined front. A non-monotonic trend emerges as the adhesion strength is increased; the infiltration of chains becomes faster with the co-operative effect of adhesion and dissolution as adhesion increases but eventually slows down when the polymer–nanoparticle adhesion dominates. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Poly(lactic acid) (PLA) is a commercially available bio‐based polymer that is a potential alternative to many commodity petrochemical‐based polymers. However, PLA's thermomechanical properties limit its use in many applications. Incorporating polymer‐grafted cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) is one potential route to improving these mechanical properties. One key challenge in using these polymer‐grafted nanoparticles is to understand which variables associated with polymer grafting are most important for improving composite properties. In this work, poly(ethylene glycol)‐grafted CNCs are used to study the effects of polymer grafting density and molecular weight on the properties of PLA composites. All CNC nanofillers are found to reinforce PLA above the glass transition temperature, but non‐grafted CNCs and CNCs grafted with short PEG chains (<2 kg mol−1) are found to cause significant embrittlement, generally resulting in less than 3% elongation‐at‐break. By grafting higher molecular weight PEG (10 kg mol−1) onto the CNCs at a grafting density where the polymer chains are predicted to be in the semi‐dilute polymer brush conformation (~0.1 chains nm−2), embrittlement can be avoided.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Polymer‐grafted magnetic nanoparticles at oil–air interfaces are examined to reveal the role of chain length and anisotropy on particle packing order in thin films. It is found that particles grafted with intermediate chain lengths and sparse grafting densities exhibit enhanced packing order with increasing magnetic field strength. Voronoi tessellation results present an increase in the cell area distribution of these samples, suggesting that chain conformations are affected. For the longest graft length, particles become more disordered under magnetic fields. It is proposed that fluctuations in the bridged chains rearrange particles into less ordered packing with field application and the mechanism of packing order differs for varying graft chain lengths. Grafting anisotropy is found to determine the spatial nanoparticle organization in assembled monolayers.

    more » « less