Correlation between cyclic topology and shape memory properties of an amine-based thermoset shape memory polymer: a coarse-grained molecular dynamics study

P Nourian and CD Wick and GQ Li and AJ Peters, SMART MATERIALS AND STRUCTURES, 31, 105014 (2022).

DOI: 10.1088/1361-665X/ac8bb5

Defects in crosslinked networks have a negative effect on mechanical and functional properties. In this study, an epoxy resin diglycidyl ether of bisphenol A crosslinked by a hardener 4,4-diaminodiphenyl methane with various cyclic topologies was simulated to find correlations between the mechanical/shape memory properties (i.e. glassy/rubbery elastic modulus, shape recovery ratio, and recovery stress) and cyclic topologies (i.e. number of total loops, number of defective loops (DLs), etc). The effect of cyclic topology on shape memory properties was more significant than its effect on mechanical properties, altering recovery stress by more than 25% on average. After analyzing several topological fingerprints such as total number of loops, number of DLs, and number of higher order loops, we found that the effect of cyclic topology on the mechanical/shape memory properties of the systems can be best understood by the fraction of hardeners reacted with four distinct epoxy molecules (tetra-distinctly-reacted (TDR) hardeners). By increasing the number of TDR hardeners, the network is closer to ideal, resulting in an increase in the number of higher order loops and a reduction in the number of DLs, which in turn leads to an increase in rubbery elastic modulus and shape recovery ratio to a lesser degree, but a substantial increase in recovery stress. These results suggest that utilization of experimental techniques such as semibatch monomer addition, which leads to a more expanded and defect-free network, can result in a simultaneous increase in both shape recovery ratio and recovery stress in thermoset shape memory polymers (TSMPs). Moreover, topology alteration can be used to synthesize TSMPs with improved recovery stress without significantly increasing their stiffness.

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