Structure and Dynamics of Binary Mixtures of Soft Nanocolloids and Polymers
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Binary mixtures of polymers and soft nanocolloids, also called as polymer nanocomposites are well known and studied for their enormous potentials on various technological fronts. In this thesis blends of polystyrene grafted gold nanoparticles (PGNPs) and polystyrene (PS) are studied experimentally, both in bulk and in thin films. This thesis comprises three parts; 1) evolution of microscopic dynamics in the bulk(chapter-3),2) dispersion behavior of PGNPs in thin and ultra thin polymer matrices (chapter-4) 3) effect of dispersion on the glass transition behavior (chapter-5). In ﬁrst part, the state of art technique, x-ray photon correlation spectroscopy is used to study the temperature and wave vector dependent microscopic dy¬namics of PGNPs and PGNP-PS mixtures. Structural similarities between PGNPs and star polymers (SPs) are shown using small angle x-ray scatter¬ing and scaling relations. We find unexpected (when compared with SPs) non-monotonic dependence of the structural relaxation time of the nanoparticles with functionality (number of arms attached to the surface). Role of core-core attractions in PGNPs is shown and discussed to be the cause of anomalous behavior in dynamics. In PGNP-PS mixtures, we find evidence of melting of the dynamically arrested state of the PGNPs with addition of PS followed by a reentrant slowing down of the dynamics with further increase in polymer frac¬tion, depending on the size ratio(δ)of PS and PGNPs. For higher δ the reen¬trant behavior is not observed with polymer densities explored here. Possible explanation of the observed dynamics in terms of the presence of double-glass phase is provided. The correlation between structure and reentrant vitrifica¬tion in both pristine PGNPs and blends are derived rather qualitatively. In the second part, the focus is shifted to miscibility between PGNPs and polymers under confinement i.e., in thin films. This chapter provide a compre¬hensive study on the different parameters affecting dispersion viz., annealing conditions, fraction of the added particles, polymer-particle interface and more importantly the thickness of the films. Changes in the dispersion behavior with annealing is shown and the need for annealing the films at temperatures higher than the glass transition temperature of the matrix polymers is clearly elucidated. Irrespective of the thickness of the films( 20 and 65 nm) studied, immiscible particle-polymer blends unequivocally prove the presence of gradi¬ent in dynamics along the depth of the films. To our knowledge for the ﬁrst time, we report results on confinement induced enhancement in the dispersion of the nanoparticles in thin polymer films. The enhanced dispersion is argued to be facilitated by the increased free volume in the polymer due to confinement as shown by others. Based on these results we have proposed a phase diagram for dispersibility of the nanoparticles in polymer films. The phase diagram for ultra thin films highlights an important point: In ultra thin films the particles are dispersed even with grafting molecular weight less than matrix molecular weight. In the third part, we have studied the glass transition of the thin films whose structure has been studied earlier in the earlier part. Non-monotonic variation in glass transition with the fraction of particles in thin films has increased our belief on the gradient in the dynamics of thin polymer films. En¬hanced dispersion with confinement is captured with the enhanced deviation in glass transition temperature of ultra thin films. Effect of miscibility param¬eter on Tgis studied and the results are explained with the subtle interplay of polymer-particle interface and confinement.
- Physics (PHY) 
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