Confinement effects on the mechanical heterogeneity of polymer fiber glasses
T Kwon and BJ Sung, PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 102, 052501 (2020).
Both polymer fiber glasses and bulk polymer glasses exhibit nonlinear mechanical responses under uniaxial deformation. In polymer fibers, however, polymer chains are confined strongly and the surface area is relatively large compared to their volume. The confinement and the surface may lead to the spatially heterogeneous relaxation of chains in polymer fibers. In this work we perform molecular dynamics simulations and investigate the relation between the heterogeneous dynamics and the nonlinear mechanical responses at a molecular level. Our molecular simulations capture successfully not only the nonlinear mechanical response but also the dependence of mechanical properties on the strain rate of typical polymer glasses as in experiments. We find that the local elastic modulus and the nonaffine displacement are spatially heterogeneous in the pre-yield regime, which results in a lower elastic modulus for polymer fibers than bulk polymer glasses. In the post-yield regime, those mechanical properties become relatively homogeneous. Monomers with large nonaffine displacement are localized mainly at the interfacial region in the pre-yield regime while highly nonaffine monomers are distributed throughout the fibers in the post-yield regime. We show that the nonaffine displacement during deformation relates closely to the mechanical response of the polymer fibers. We also find that in the strain-hardening regime there is a significant difference in the energetic contribution to the stress between polymer fibers and bulk polymers, for which the modulus of the strain-hardening regime of the polymer fibers is smaller than that of bulk polymers.
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