We employ the Elastically Collective Nonlinear Langevin Equation (ECNLE) theory of activated relaxation to study several questions in free standing thin films of glass-forming molecular and polymer liquids. The influence of non-universal chemical aspects on dynamical confinement effects is found to be relatively weak, but with the caveat that for the systems examined, the bulk ECNLE polymer theory does not predict widely varying fragilities. Allowing the film model to have a realistic vapor interfacial width significantly enhances the reduction of the film-averaged glass transition temperature, Tg, in a manner that depends on whether a dynamic or pseudo-thermodynamic averaging of the spatial mobility gradient is adopted. The nature of film thickness effects on the spatial profiles of the alpha relaxation time and elastic modulus is studied under non-isothermal conditions and contrasted with the corresponding isothermal behavior. Modest differences are found if a film-thickness dependent Tg is defined in a dynamical manner. However, adopting a pseudo-thermodynamic measure of Tg leads to a qualitatively new form of the alpha relaxation time gradient where highly mobile layers near the film surface coexist with strongly vitrified regions in the film interior. As a consequence, the film-averaged shear modulus can increase with decreasing film thickness, despite the Tg reduction and presence of a mobile surface layer. Such a behavior stands in qualitative contrast to the predicted mechanical softening under isothermal conditions. Spatial gradients of the elastic modulus are studied as a function of temperature, film thickness, probing frequency, and experimental protocol, and a rich behavior is found.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Physics and Astronomy
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry