Molecular dynamics and molecular mechanics simulations have been used to study thermo-mechanical response of highly cross-linked polymers composed of epoxy resin DGEBA and hardener DETDA. The effective cross-linking approach used in this work allowed construction of a set of stress-free molecular models with high conversion degree containing up to 35000 atoms. The generated structures were used to investigate the influence of model size, length of epoxy strands, and degree of cure on thermo-mechanical properties. The calculated densities, coefficients of thermal expansion, and glass transition temperatures of the systems are found to be in good agreement with experimental data. The computationally efficient static deformation approach we used to calculate elastic constants of the systems successfully compensated for the large scattering of the mechanical properties data due to nanoscopically small volume of simulation cells and allowed comparison of properties of similar polymeric networks having minor differences in structure or chemistry. However, some of the elastic constants obtained using this approach were found to be higher than in real macroscopic samples. This can be attributed to both finite-size effect and to the limitations of the static deformation approach to account for dynamic effects. The observed dependence of properties on system size, in this work, can be used to estimate the contribution of large-scale defects and relaxation events into macroscopic properties of the thermosetting materials.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/sharmila_mukhopadhyay/2/