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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
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  4. Abstract

    Initially, vanadium dioxide seems to be an ideal first-order phase transition case study due to its deceptively simple structure and composition, but upon closer inspection there are nuances to the driving mechanism of the metal-insulator transition (MIT) that are still unexplained. In this study, a local structure analysis across a bulk powder tungsten-substitution series is utilized to tease out the nuances of this first-order phase transition. A comparison of the average structure to the local structure using synchrotron x-ray diffraction and total scattering pair-distribution function methods, respectively, is discussed as well as comparison to bright field transmission electron microscopy imaging through a similar temperature-series as the local structure characterization. Extended x-ray absorption fine structure fitting of thin film data across the substitution-series is also presented and compared to bulk. Machine learning technique, non-negative matrix factorization, is applied to analyze the total scattering data. The bulk MIT is probed through magnetic susceptibility as well as differential scanning calorimetry. The findings indicate the local transition temperature ($$T_c$$Tc) is less than the average$$T_c$$Tcsupporting the Peierls-Mott MIT mechanism, and demonstrate that in bulk powder and thin-films, increasing tungsten-substitution instigates local V-oxidation through the phase pathway VO$$_2\, \rightarrow$$2V$$_6$$6O$$_{13} \, \rightarrow$$13V$$_2$$2O$$_5$$5.

  5. 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.

  6. Investigation of charge transfer in quantum dot (QD) systems is an area of great interest. Specifically, the relationship between capping ligand and rate of charge transfer has been studied as a means to optimize these materials. To investigate the role of ligand interaction on the QD surface for electron transfer, we designed and synthesized a series of ligands containing an electron accepting moiety, naphthalene bisimide (NBI). These ligands differ in their steric bulk: as one allows for π–π stacking between the NBI moieties at high surface coverages, while the other does not, allowing for a direct comparison of these effects. Once grafted onto QDs, these hybrid materials were studied using UV-Vis, fluorescence, and transient absorption spectroscopy. Interestingly, the sample with the fastest electron transfer was not the sample with the most NBI π–π stacking, it was instead where these ligands were mixed amongst oleic acid, breaking up H-aggregates between the NBI groups.
  7. Single particle tracking (SPT) of PEG grafted nanoparticles (NPs) was used to examine the gelation of tetra poly(ethylene glycol) (TPEG) succinimidyl glutarate (TPEG-SG) and amine (TPEG-A) terminated 4-armed stars. As concentration was decreased from 40 to 20 mg mL −1 , the onset of network formation, t gel , determined from rheometry increased from less than 2 to 44 minutes. NP mobility increased as polymer concentration decreased in the sol state, but remained diffusive at times past the t gel determined from rheometry. Once in the gel state, NP mobility decreased, became sub-diffusive, and eventually localized in all concentrations. The NP displacement distributions were investigated to gain insight into the nanoscale environment. In these relatively homogeneous gels, the onset of sub-diffusivity was marked by a rapid increase in dynamic heterogeneity followed by a decrease consistent with a homogeneous network. We propose a gelation mechanism in which clusters initially form a heterogeneous structure which fills in to form a fully gelled relatively homogenous network. This work aims to examine the kinetics of TPEG gelation and the homogeneity of these novel gels on the nanometer scale, which will aid in the implementation of these gels in biomedical or filtration applications.
  8. The self-assembly of gold nanorods (AuNRs) of different sizes with a block copolymer (BCP) is studied. Polystyrene- block -poly(2-vinylpyridine) (PS- b -P2VP) films containing P2VP functionalized AuNRs are solvent annealed resulting in a BCP morphology of vertical P2VP cylinders in a PS matrix. At the surface of the PS- b -P2VP films long AuNRs are found in the bridging and vertical states. The bridging state is where the long axis of the AuNR is parallel to the film surface, the AuNR is embedded in the film, and each end of the AuNR is at the top of nearest neighbor P2VP cylinders. The vertical state is where the AuNR is localized within a vertical P2VP cylinder, the AuNR long axis is perpendicular to the film surface and the upper tip of the AuNR is at the film surface. Short AuNRs were found in the bridging and vertical states as well as in a state not observed for the long AuNRs, the centered state. The centered state is where an AuNR has its long axis parallel to the film surface, is embedded in the film, and is centered over a vertical P2VP cylinder. Hybrid particle-field theory (HPFT) simulations modeling the experimental systemmore »predict that for the long AuNRs only the bridging state should be observed while for the short AuNRs only the bridging and centered states should be observed. Possible explanations for why the vertical state is observed in experiments despite being thermodynamically unfavorable in simulations are discussed. HPFT simulations also show that when a nanorod is in the bridging state the two cylinders it bridges remain intact and extend from the nanorod to the substrate. Further, the minority block of the BCP is shown to wet the bottom of the bridging nanorod. The bridging state is very promising for the future development of self-assembled nanoscale devices.« less