Dynamic mechanical behaviors of nacre-inspired graphene-polymer nanocomposites depending on internal nanostructures

CC Chiang and J Breslin and S Weeks and ZX Meng, EXTREME MECHANICS LETTERS, 49, 101451 (2021).

DOI: 10.1016/j.eml.2021.101451

Nacre, a natural nanocomposite with a brick-and-mortar structure existing in the inner layer of mollusk shells, has been shown to optimize strength and toughness along the laminae (in-plane) direction. However, such natural materials more often experience impact load in the direction perpendicular to the layers (i.e., out-of-plane direction) from predators. The dynamic responses and deformation mechanisms of layered structures under impact load in the out-of-plane direction have been much less analyzed. This study investigates the dynamic mechanical behaviors of nacre-inspired layered nanocomposite films using a model system that comprises alternating multi-layer graphene (MLG) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) phases. With a validated coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulation approach, we systematically study the mechanical properties and impact resistance of the MLG-PMMA nanocomposite films with different internal nanostructures, which are characterized by the layer thickness and number of repetitions while keeping the total volume constant. We find that as the layer thickness decreases, the effective modulus of the polymer phase confined by the adjacent MLG phases increases. Using ballistic impact simulations to explore the dynamic responses of nanocomposite films in the out-of-plane direction, we find that the impact resistance and dynamic failure mechanisms of the films depend on the internal nanostructures. Specifically, when each layer is relatively thick, the nanocomposite is more prone to spalling-like failure induced by compressive stress waves from the projectile impact. Whereas, when there are more repetitions, and each layer becomes relatively thin, a high-velocity projectile sequentially penetrates the nanocomposite film. In the low projectile velocity regime, the film develops crazing-like deformation zones in PMMA phases. We also show that the position of the soft PMMA phase relative to the stiff graphene sheets plays an important role in the ballistic impact performance of the investigated films. Our study provides insights into the effect of nanostructures on the dynamic mechanical behaviors of layered nanocomposites, which can lead to effective design strategies for impact-resistant films. (C) 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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