Strain hardening and strain softening of reversibly cross-linked supramolecular polymer networks
The large amplitude oscillatory shear behavior of metallo-supramolecular polymer networks formed by adding bis-Pd(II) cross-linkers to poly(4-vinylpyridine) (PVP) in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) solution is reported. The influence of scanning frequency, dissociation rate of cross-linkers, concentration of cross-linkers, and concentration of PVP solution on the large amplitude oscillatory shear behavior is explored. In semidilute unentangled PVP solutions, above a critical scanning frequency, strain hardening of both storage moduli and loss moduli is observed. In the semidilute entangled regime of PVP solution, however, strain softening is observed for samples with faster cross-linkers (kd ∼ 1450 s-1), whereas strain hardening is observed for samples with slower cross-linkers (kd ∼ 17 s-1). The mechanism of strain hardening is attributed primarily to a strain-induced increase in the number of elastically active chains, with possible contributions from non-Gaussian stretching of polymer chains at strains approaching network fracture. The divergent strain softening of samples with faster cross-linkers in semidilute entangled PVP solutions, relative to the strain hardening of samples with slower cross-linkers, is consistent with observed shear thinning/shear thickening behavior reported previously and is attributed to the fact that the average time that a cross-linker remains detached is too short to permit the local relaxation of polymer chain segments that is necessary for a net conversion of elastically inactive to elastically active cross-linkers. These and other observations paint a picture in which strain softening and shear thinning arise from the same set of molecular mechanisms, conceptually uniting the two nonlinear responses for this system. © 2011 American Chemical Society.
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