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Size-dependent mechanical behavior of free-standing glassy polymer thin films

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2014

Wenjie Xia
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-3109, USA
Sinan Keten*
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-3109, USA
a)Address all correspondence to this author. e-mail:
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The mechanical properties of nanoscale free-standing polymer thin films exhibit size dependence due to surface effects. However, it remains a challenge to determine the length scales at which differences are exhibited between film and bulk polymer properties. Here we use molecular dynamics simulations to uncover the dependence of elastic modulus (E) of free-standing films on film thickness and bulk properties. Comparison of the glass transition temperature (Tg) and E indicates that Tg converges to the bulk value slightly faster as the film thickness increases. The free-surface effects that give rise to a depression in E and Tg are observed to be stronger for polymers with weaker intermolecular interactions. The most intriguing aspect of our study is the finding that despite the observed decrease in the modulus of the film up to a thickness of over 100 nm, the local stress distribution reveals that the preserved length scale of perturbation of the free surface is only several nanometers.

Copyright © Materials Research Society 2015 

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