Auxetic polymer networks: The role of crosslinking, density, and disorder

A Ninarello and J Ruiz-Franco and E Zaccarelli, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 159, 234902 (2023).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0178409

Low-crosslinked polymer networks have recently been found to behave auxetically when subjected to small tensions, that is, their Poisson's ratio nu becomes negative. In addition, for specific state points, numerical simulations revealed that diamond-like networks reach the limit of mechanical stability, exhibiting values of nu = -1, a condition that we define as hyper-auxeticity. This behavior is interesting per se for its consequences in materials science but is also appealing for fundamental physics because the mechanical instability is accompanied by evidence of criticality. In this work, we deepen our understanding of this phenomenon by performing a large set of equilibrium and stress- strain simulations in combination with phenomenological elasticity theory. The two approaches are found to be in good agreement, confirming the above results. We also extend our investigations to disordered polymer networks and find that the hyper-auxetic behavior also holds in this case, still manifesting a similar critical-like behavior as in the diamond one. Finally, we highlight the role of the number density, which is found to be a relevant control parameter determining the elastic properties of the system. The validity of the results under disordered conditions paves the way for an experimental investigation of this phenomenon in real systems, such as hydrogels.

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