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  1. We show that the polymer-grafted nanoparticles (NPs) initially welldispersed in a polymer matrix segregate to the free surface of a film upon thermal annealing in the one-phase region of the phase diagram because the grafted polymer has a lower surface energy than the matrix polymer. Using a combination of atomic force microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and Rutherford backscattering spectrometry, the evolution of the poly(methyl methacrylate)-grafted silica NP (PMMA NP) surface excess in 25/75 wt % PMMA NP/poly(styrene-ranacrylonitrile) films is observed as a function of annealing time at 150 °C (T < TLCST). The temporal growth of the surface excess is interpreted as a competition between entropic contributions, surface energy differences of the constituents, and the Flory−Huggins interaction parameter, χ. For the first time in a miscible polymer nanocomposite mixture, quantitative comparisons of NP surface segregation are made with the predictions of theory derived for analogous polymer blends. These studies provide insight for designing polymer nanocomposite films with advantageous surface properties such as wettability and hardness and motivate the need for developing rigorous models that capture complex polymer nanocomposite phase behaviors.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 23, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  3. Abstract

    Reconfigurable arrays of 2D nanomaterials are essential for the realization of switchable and intelligent material systems. Using liquid crystals (LCs) as a medium represents a promising approach, in principle, to enable such control. In practice, however, this approach is hampered by the difficulty of achieving stable dispersions of nanomaterials. Here, we report on good dispersions of pristine CdSe nanoplatelets (NPLs) in LCs, and reversible, rapid control of their alignment and associated anisotropic photoluminescence, using a magnetic field. We reveal that dispersion stability is greatly enhanced using polymeric, rather than small molecule, LCs and is considerably greater in the smectic phases of the resulting systems relative to the nematic phases. Aligned composites exhibit highly polarized emission that is readily manipulated by field-realignment. Such dynamic alignment of optically-active 2D nanomaterials may enable the development of programmable materials for photonic applications and the methodology can guide designs for anisotropic nanomaterial composites for a broad set of related nanomaterials.