Computational prediction of the influence of crosslink distribution on the thermo-mechanical properties of epoxies
Experimental studies on epoxies report that the microstructure consists of highly crosslinked localized regions connected with a dispersed phase of low crosslink density. The various thermo-mechanical properties of epoxies might be affected by the crosslink distribution. But as experiments cannot report the exact number of crosslinked covalent bonds present in the structure, molecular dynamics is thus being used in this work to determine the influence of crosslink distribution on thermo-mechanical properties. Molecular dynamics and molecular mechanics simulations are used to establish wellequilibrated molecular models of EPON 862-DETDA epoxy system with a range of crosslink densities and various crosslink distributions. Crosslink distributions are being varied by forming differently crosslinked localized clusters and then by forming different number of crosslinks interconnecting the clusters. Simulations are subsequently used to predict the volume shrinkage, thermal expansion coefficients, and elastic properties of each of the crosslinked systems. The results indicate that elastic properties increase with increasing levels of overall crosslink density and the thermal expansion coefficient decreases with overall crosslink density, both above and below the glass transition temperature. Elastic moduli and coefficients of linear thermal expansion values were found to be different for systems with same overall crosslink density but having different crosslink distributions, thus indicating an effect of the epoxy nanostructure on physical properties. The values of thermo-mechanical properties for all the crosslinked systems are within the range of values reported in literature.