Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is an experimental technique that can be used for the direct measurement of local properties and surface topography at the nanoscale. This is done using a sharp tip attached to the end of a cantilever across a sample surface where deflections of the cantilever can be related to nanoscale changes and surface properties.
One of the most promising areas of local properties measurements by AFM is in elucidating the nature of polymer interphases. The interphase is a nanoscale region of polymer with altered properties resulting from chemical and physical interactions between local polymer chains and neighboring attractive surfaces. The change in polymer conformations and dynamics within the interphase are thought to be responsible for many of the enhanced properties observed in thin films and polymer nanocomposites.
This project develops a framework that uses experimental data alongside finite element simulations to enable the forward prediction of mechanical properties of polymer nanocomposites.
The experimental data collected is used as an input for the FEA model and includes the nanoparticle distribution, the viscoelastic properties of the polymer matrix and the extent of the interphase. The prediction is then validated by the viscoelastic properties of the polymer nanocomposite to complete the loop and verify the methodology used.
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