A comparative study of thermodynamic, conformational, and structural properties of bottlebrush with star and ring polymer melts
Thermodynamic, conformational, and structural properties of bottlebrush polymer melts are investigated with molecular dynamics simulations and compared to linear, regular star, and unknotted ring polymer melts to gauge the influence of molecular topology on polymer melt properties. We focus on the variation of the backbone chain length, the grafting density along the backbone, and the length of the side chains at different temperatures above the melt glass transition temperature. Based on these comparisons, we find that the segmental density, isothermal compressibility, and isobaric thermal expansion of bottlebrush melts are quantitatively similar to unknotted ring polymer melts and star polymer melts having a moderate number ( f = 5 to 6) of arms. These similarities extend to the mass scaling of the chain radius of gyration. Our results together indicate that the configurational properties of bottlebrush polymers in their melt state are more similar to randomly branched polymers than linear polymer chains. We also find that the average shape of bottlebrush polymers having short backbone chains with respect to the side chain length is also rather similar to the unknotted ring and moderately branched star polymers in their melt state. As a general trend, the molecular shape of bottlebrush polymers becomes more spherically symmetric when the length of the side chains has a commensurate length as the backbone chain. Finally, we calculate the partial static structure factor of the backbone segments and we find the emergence of a peak at the length scales that characterizes the average distance between the backbone chains. This peak is absent when we calculate the full static structure factor. We characterize the scaling of this peak with parameters characterizing the bottlebrush molecular architecture to aid in the experimental characterization of these molecules by neutron scattering.