Interfacial load transfer mechanisms in carbon nanotube-polymer nanocomposites

Soumendu Bagchi, Abhilash Harpale, Huck Beng Chew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are highly promising for strength reinforcement in polymer nanocomposites, but conflicting interfacial properties have been reported by single nanotube pull-out experiments. Here, we report the interfacial load transfer mechanisms during pull-out of CNTs from PMMA matrices, using massively- parallel molecular dynamics simulations. We show that the pullout forces associated with non-bonded interactions between CNT and PMMA are generally small, and are weakly-dependent on the embedment length of the nanotube. These pull-out forces do not significantly increase with the presence of Stone Wales or vacancy defects along the nanotube. In contrast, low-density distribution of cross-links along the CNT-PMMA interface increases the pull-out forces by an order of magnitude. At each cross-linked site, mechanical unfolding and pull-out of single or pair polymer chain(s) attached to the individual cross-link bonds result in substantial interfacial strengthening and toughening, while contributing to interfacial slip between CNT and PMMA. Our interfacial shear-slip model shows that the interfacial loads are evenly-distributed among the finite number of cross-link bonds at low cross-link densities or for nanotubes with short embedment lengths. At higher cross-link densities or for nanotubes with longer embedment lengths, a no-slip zone now develops where shear-lag effects become important. Implications of these results, in the context of recent nanotube pull-out experiments, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20170705
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2216
StatePublished - 2018


  • Carbon nanotubes
  • Cross-link bonds
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Polymer nanocomposites
  • Shear-slip

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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