Nanoparticle organization in sandwiched polymer brushes.

09 Jan 2018

The organization of nanoparticles inside grafted polymer layers is governed by the interplay of polymer-induced entropic interactions and the action of externally applied fields. Earlier work had shown that strong external forces can drive the formation of colloidal structures in polymer brushes. Here we show that external fields are not essential to obtain such colloidal patterns: we report Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulations that demonstrate that ordered structures can be achieved by compressing a "sandwich" of two grafted polymer layers, or by squeezing a coated nanotube, with nanoparticles in between. We show that the pattern formation can be efficiently controlled by the applied pressure, while the characteristic length-scale, that is, the typical width of the patterns, is sensitive to the length of the polymers. Based on the results of the simulations, we derive an approximate equation of state for nanosandwiches.