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J Chem Phys. 2008 Jun 14;128(22):224902. doi: 10.1063/1.2929831.

Forces between nanorods with end-adsorbed chains in a homopolymer melt.

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  • 1Sandia National Laboratories, P.O. Box 5800, MS 1411, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185, USA.


Adsorbed or grafted polymers are often used to provide steric stabilization of colloidal particles. When the particle size approaches the nanoscale, the curvature of the particles becomes relevant. To investigate this effect for the case of cylindrical symmetry, I use a classical fluids density functional theory applied to a coarse-grained model to study the polymer-mediated interactions between two nanorods. The rods are coated with end-adsorbing chains and immersed in a polymer melt of chemically identical, nonadsorbing chains. The force between the nanorods is found to be nonmonotonic, with an attractive well when the two brushes come into contact with each other, followed by a steep repulsion at shorter distances. The attraction is due to the entropic phenomenon of autophobic dewetting, in which there is a surface tension between the brush and the matrix chains. These results are similar to previous results for planar and spherical polymer brushes in melts of the same polymer. The depth of the attractive well increases with matrix chain molecular weight and with the surface coverage. The attraction is very weak when the matrix chain molecular weight is similar to or smaller than the brush molecular weight, but for longer matrix chains the magnitude of the attraction can become large enough to cause aggregation of the nanorods.

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