Supersonic Impact Response of Polymer Thin Films via Large-Scale Atomistic Simulations

AL Bowman and EP Chan and WB Lawrimore and JK Newman, NANO LETTERS, 21, 5991-5997 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.1c00961

Recent nanoscale ballistic tests have shown the applicability of nanomaterials for ballistic protection but have raised questions regarding the nanoscale structure-property relationships that contribute to the ballistic response. Herein, we report on multimillion-atom reactive molecular dynamics simulations of the supersonic impact, penetration, and failure of polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS) ultrathin films. The simulated specific penetration energy (E-p(*)) versus impact velocity predicts to within 15% the experimentally determined E-p(*) for PS. For impact velocities less than 1 km s(-1), a crazing/petalling failure mode is observed due to chain disentanglement, transitioning to fragmentation coupled with large amounts of adiabatic heating at velocities greater than 1 km s(-1). Interestingly, the high entanglement density of PE provides enhanced penetration resistance at low velocities, whereas increased adiabatic heating in PS promotes greater penetration resistance at elevated velocities. By understanding nanoscale mechanisms of energy absorption, nanomaterials can be designed to provide superior penetration resistance.

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