Multiscale modeling of nanodevices based on carbon nanotubes and polymers

Zhao, Jun-Hua

This thesis concerns the physical and mechanical interactions on carbon nanotubes and polymers by multiscale modeling. CNTs have attracted considerable interests in view of their unique mechanical, electronic, thermal, optical and structural properties, which enable them to have many potential applications. Carbon nanotube exists in several structure forms, from individual single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) to carbon nanotube bundles and networks. The mechanical properties of SWCNTs and MWCNTs have been extensively studied by continuum modeling and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations in the past decade since the properties could be important in the CNT-based devices. CNT bundles and networks feature outstanding mechanical performance and hierarchical structures and network topologies, which have been taken as a potential saving-energy material. In the synthesis of nanocomposites, the formation of the CNT bundles and networks is a challenge to remain in understanding how to measure and predict the properties of such large systems. Therefore, a mesoscale method such as a coarse-grained (CG) method should be developed to study the nanomechanical characterization of CNT bundles and networks formation. In this thesis, the main contributions can be written as follows: (1) Explicit solutions for the cohesive energy between carbon nanotubes, graphene and substrates are obtained through continuum modeling of the van der Waals interaction between them. (2) The CG potentials of SWCNTs are established by a molecular mechanics model. (3) The binding energy between two parallel and crossing SWCNTs and MWCNTs is obtained by continuum modeling of the van der Waals interaction between them. Crystalline and amorphous polymers are increasingly used in modern industry as tructural materials due to its important mechanical and physical properties. For crystalline polyethylene (PE), despite its importance and the studies of available MD simulations and continuum models, the link between molecular and continuum descriptions of its mechanical properties is still not well established. For amorphous polymers, the chain length and temperature effect on their elastic and elastic-plastic properties has been reported based on the united-atom (UA) and CG MD imulations in our previous work. However, the effect of the CL and temperature on the failure behavior is not understood well yet. Especially, the failure behavior under shear has been scarcely reported in previous work. Therefore, understanding the molecular origins of macroscopic fracture behavior such as fracture energy is a fundamental scientific challenge. In this thesis, the main contributions can be written as follows: (1) An analytical molecular mechanics model is developed to obtain the size-dependent elastic properties of crystalline PE. (2) We show that the two molecular mechanics models, the stick-spiral and the beam models, predict considerably different mechanical properties of materials based on energy equivalence. The difference between the two models is independent of the materials. (3) The tensile and shear failure behavior dependence on chain length and temperature in amorphous polymers are scrutinized using molecular dynamics simulations. Finally, the influence of polymer wrapped two neighbouring SWNTs’ dispersion on their load transfer is investigated by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, in which the SWNTs' position, the polymer chain length and the temperature on the interaction force is systematically studied.


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