Big Effect of Small Nanoparticles: A Shift in Paradigm for Polymer Nanocomposites

Shiwang Cheng, Shi Jie Xie, Jan Michael Y. Carrillo, Bobby Carroll, Halie Martin, Peng Fei Cao, Mark D. Dadmun, Bobby G. Sumpter, Vladimir N. Novikov, Kenneth S. Schweizer, Alexei P. Sokolov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polymer nanocomposites (PNCs) are important materials that are widely used in many current technologies and potentially have broader applications in the future due to their excellent property tunability, light weight, and low cost. However, expanding the limits in property enhancement remains a fundamental scientific challenge. Here, we demonstrate that well-dispersed, small (diameter ∼1.8 nm) nanoparticles with attractive interactions lead to unexpectedly large and qualitatively different changes in PNC structural dynamics in comparison to conventional nanocomposites based on particles of diameters ∼10-50 nm. At the same time, the zero-shear viscosity at high temperatures remains comparable to that of the neat polymer, thereby retaining good processability and resolving a major challenge in PNC applications. Our results suggest that the nanoparticle mobility and relatively short lifetimes of nanoparticle-polymer associations open qualitatively different horizons in the tunability of macroscopic properties in nanocomposites with a high potential for the development of advanced functional materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)752-759
Number of pages8
JournalACS Nano
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 24 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • apparent disentanglement
  • fragility
  • glass transition
  • polymer nanocomposites
  • small nanoparticles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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