465349 Quantifying Topology and Elasticity of Polymer Networks

Thursday, November 17, 2016: 1:30 PM
Golden Gate 2 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Rui WANG1, Alfredo Alexander-Katz2, Jeremiah A. Johnson3 and Bradley D. Olsen1, (1)Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, (2)Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, (3)Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Despite the ubiquity of applications, much of our fundamental knowledge about polymer networks is based on an assumption of ideal end-linked structure. However, polymer networks invariably possess topological defects: loops of different orders which have profound effects on network properties. Here, we develop a kinetic graph theory which demonstrates that all different orders of cyclic topologies are a universal function of a single dimensionless parameter characterizing the conditions for network formation. The theory is in excellent agreement with both experimental measurements of hydrogel loop fractions and Monte Carlo simulations without any fitting parameters. We demonstrate the superposition of the dilution effect and chain-length effect on loop formation. The one-to-one correspondence between the network topology and primary loop fraction demonstrates that the entire network topology is characterized by measurement of just primary loops, a single chain topological feature. Different cyclic defects cannot vary independently, in contrast to the intuition that the densities of all topological species are freely adjustable.

Quantifying different cyclic defects facilitates studying the correlations between the network topology and gel elasticity. Classical theories of gel elasticity assume acyclic tree-like network topology; however, all polymer gels inevitably possess cyclic defects: loops that have profound, yet previously unpredictable, effect on gel properties. Here, we develop a real elastic network theory (RENT), a modified phantom network theory that accounts for the impacts of cyclic defects. We demonstrate that small loops (primary and secondary loops) have vital effect on the modulus; whereas this negative impact decreases rapidly as the loop order increases, especially for networks with higher junction functionalities. Loop effect is non-local, which can propagate to its neighborhood strands. RENT provides predictions that are highly consistent with experimental observations of polymer network elasticity, providing a quantitative theory of elasticity that is based on molecular details of polymer networks.

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See more of this Session: Polymer Networks and Gels
See more of this Group/Topical: Materials Engineering and Sciences Division