Mechanical properties of thin glassy polymer films filled with spherical polymer-grafted nanoparticles

Damien Maillard, Sanat K. Kumar*, Benjamin Fragneaud, Jeffrey W. Kysar, Atri Rungta, Brian C. Benicewicz, Hua Deng, L. Cate Brinson, Jack F. Douglas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


It is commonly accepted that the addition of spherical nanoparticles (NPs) cannot simultaneously improve the elastic modulus, the yield stress, and the ductility of an amorphous glassy polymer matrix. In contrast to this conventional wisdom, we show that ductility can be substantially increased, while maintaining gains in the elastic modulus and yield stress, in glassy nanocomposite films composed of spherical silica NPs grafted with polystyrene (PS) chains in a PS matrix. The key to these improvements are (i) uniform NP spatial dispersion and (ii) strong interfacial binding between NPs and the matrix, by making the grafted chains sufficiently long relative to the matrix. Strikingly, the optimal conditions for the mechanical reinforcement of the same nanocomposite material in the melt state is completely different, requiring the presence of spatially extended NP clusters. Evidently, NP spatial dispersions that optimize material properties are crucially sensitive to the state (melt versus glass) of the polymeric material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3909-3914
Number of pages6
JournalNano letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 8 2012


  • Polymers
  • mechanical properties
  • nanocomposites
  • nanoparticles
  • self-assembled structures
  • solid state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science


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