Polymer Science

All-atomistic molecular dynamics study of the glass transition of amorphous polymers

Authors

Abstract

Glass transition is an important phenomenon of polymer materials and it has been intensively studied over the past a few decades. However, the influencing factors arising from the chemical structures of the polymers are often ignored due to a continuous or coarse-grained description of the polymer. Here, we approached this phenomenon using all-atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and two conventionally used polymer materials, polycarbonate (PC) and poly-(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA). We reproduced the glass transition temperatures (Tg) of the two materials reasonably well. Then we characterized and investigated the glass transition process by looking at the changes of potential energy, dihedral transition, and thermal fluctuation of the individual degrees of freedom in the systems, over the entire temperature range of glass transition. As previously reported, the dihedral angles stop their conformational changes gradually at the Tg, especially for the main chain dihedrals, and sidechain rotations immediately rooting from the main chain. The volumetric change during the temperature decrease is confirmed to be because of conformational adjustment, probably due to the tendency of chain stretching for the maintenance of the radius of gyration, and the loss of thermal energy. The strength of motions of single degrees of freedom and polymer chains, and overall slow motions obtained by normal mode analysis (NMA) shows that different motions at different spatial scale may gradually stop at distinct temperature in the MD simulation temporal and spatial scales. Presumably, the small spatial scale do not contribute to the glass transition at the experimental scale since the timescale is much longer than their relaxation time.

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