Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Hygroscopic Aging Effects in Epoxy Polymer

MFN Taufique and M Losada and S Hamel and N Goldman and MJ DiTucci and L Pagnotti and D Willis and M Torres and R Devanathan, INTEGRATING MATERIALS AND MANUFACTURING INNOVATION, 12, 185-195 (2023).

DOI: 10.1007/s40192-023-00296-5

The automobile industry is incorporating more lightweight content in car designs to boost fuel-economy. New structural adhesives are needed to mitigate the corrosion and thermal expansion issues associated with joining dissimilar lightweight materials, but adhesive developers lack a fundamental understanding of the chemistry that occurs in the adhesive as the joint ages. In this study, we developed structural adhesive molecular models and applied classical molecular dynamics simulations and density functional theory calculations to gain molecular insights into the influence of water molecules on the properties of epoxy-based adhesives (DGEBA + Jeffamine (JD230)). The simulations were complemented by experimental synthesis and characterization. Our work underscores the impact of water molecules on the local structure of the epoxy network as well as resulting mechanical properties. Water molecules were mainly coordinated with hydroxyls, primary amines and secondary amines, but also weakly coordinated with ether linkages, which were found most probable to be labile. Simulated stress-strain data indicates that increasing the water content deteriorates the mechanical properties. The Young's modulus decreased by similar to 30% when the water content increased to 3 wt%. This integration of molecular-level chemical insights with mechanical property simulations of the hydrated epoxy system and experimental validation holds the promise to advance lightweight joint technologies.

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