Role of Grafting Mechanism on the Polymer Coverage and Self-Assembly of Hairy Nanoparticles

Makoto Asai, Dan Zhao, Sanat K. Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


It is now well-accepted that controlling the spatial dispersion of nanoparticles (NPs), which can be achieved by grafting them with polymers of different chain lengths and grafting densities, is central to optimizing the thermomechanical properties of the resulting polymer nanocomposites. In general, there are two methods for creating such polymer-grafted NPs: "grafting to" and "grafting from". The conventional wisdom is that the "grafting from" mechanism, where monomer-sized initiator/functional groups are attached to the surface followed by growing the chains, allows for higher polymer grafting densities and hence a more uniform polymer coverage of the NP surface. Here, we perform calculations and instead show that the "grafting to" strategy surprisingly leads to a more uniform polymer coverage of the NP surface at a given grafting density since the brush is formed while respecting the excluded volume constraints of the previously grafted chains. This conclusion is especially clear in the limit of low-to-moderate grafting density. Thus, at a given grafting density, the "grafting to" mechanism leads to an enhanced miscibility of the NPs in the matrix (which has the same chemistry as the grafts) and lower propensity to create self-assembled structures. Another important factor is that the dispersity in the number of grafted chains on the NPs is also smaller in the case of "grafting to" systems, thus leading to better defined materials. These two conclusions imply that the "grafting to" mechanism may provide better control over the NP dispersion state and hence the thermomechanical properties of polymer nanocomposites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7028-7035
Number of pages8
JournalACS Nano
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul 25
Externally publishedYes


  • anisotropy
  • distribution of grafting density
  • excluded volume effect
  • grafting process
  • polymer grafted nanoparticle
  • self-assembly
  • surface coverage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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