A coarse-grained molecular dynamics study on the mechanical behavior of carbon nanotubes reinforced vulcanized natural rubber composites

JZ Cui and FL Zeng and YS Wang, POLYMER COMPOSITES, 44, 7752-7767 (2023).

DOI: 10.1002/pc.27662

In the present study, coarse-grained (CG) molecular models of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) strengthened vulcanized natural rubber (VNR) composites are constructed to systematically investigate the effects of length, inter-tube cross-linking, and polymer-grafting of CNTs on the stress- strain behavior of VNR composites under uniaxial tension. The interfacial CG force field between CNTs and VNR is derived via the energy matching approach. The results demonstrate that increasing the length of CNTs is able to effectively enhance the mechanical performance of VNR composites, and the reinforcing efficiency increases gradually and tends to stabilize with increasing CNT length. Moreover, the cross- linking and polymer-grafting of CNTs are also effective approaches to significantly enhance the mechanical performance of VNR composites. The enhancement mechanism of CNTs is interpreted from the perspective of CNT networks, VNR networks, CNT-VNR interface networks, and the interfacial load-transfer behavior. Specifically, the dispersion of CNTs, the orientation of CNTs and VNR molecular chains, and the wrapping and interlocking behaviors between CNTs and the VNR matrix reveal a detailed structure-mechanics relationship of CNTs-reinforced VNR composites at the molecular level. These findings present theoretical instruction for the structural design of high-performance rubber composites.

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