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Tuning the Properties of Nanocomposites by Trapping Them in Deep Metastable States...

Publication Type
Journal Name
ACS Applied Polymer Materials
Publication Date
Page Numbers
3174 to 3182

The interfacial region formed in a polymer matrix around nanoparticles (NPs) controls many macroscopic properties of polymer nanocomposites (PNCs). However, understanding the factors controlling the structure and properties of the interfacial region remains a challenge. We demonstrated that the initial trapping of polymer chains at surfaces of NPs in solution strongly affects the macroscopic properties of PNCs. The most surprising result is that the differences in properties of PNCs persist even after an extremely long thermal annealing time. We ascribe the observed changes to the formation of an interfacial layer that is trapped in a deep metastable state already in solution. Furthermore, the presented analysis suggests that the PNC equilibration time is defined by the chain desorption time that can be extremely long and, in some cases, even not accessible on a reasonable experimental time scale. These results highlight the importance of polymer solution concentrations on the formation of an interfacial layer and the macroscopic properties of PNCs.