Publications / SAND Report

Nanoparticle flow, ordering and self-assembly

Grest, Gary S.; Brown, William M.; Lechman, Jeremy B.; Petersen, Matt K.; Plimpton, Steven J.; Schunk, Randy

Nanoparticles are now more than ever being used to tailor materials function and performance in differentiating technologies because of their profound effect on thermo-physical, mechanical and optical properties. The most feasible way to disperse particles in a bulk material or control their packing at a substrate is through fluidization in a carrier, followed by solidification through solvent evaporation/drying/curing/sintering. Unfortunately processing particles as concentrated, fluidized suspensions into useful products remains an art largely because the effect of particle shape and volume fraction on fluidic properties and suspension stability remains unexplored in a regime where particle-particle interaction mechanics is prevalent. To achieve a stronger scientific understanding of the factors that control nanoparticle dispersion and rheology we have developed a multiscale modeling approach to bridge scales between atomistic and molecular-level forces active in dense nanoparticle suspensions. At the largest length scale, two 'coarse-grained' numerical techniques have been developed and implemented to provide for high-fidelity numerical simulations of the rheological response and dispersion characteristics typical in a processing flow. The first is a coupled Navier-Stokes/discrete element method in which the background solvent is treated by finite element methods. The second is a particle based method known as stochastic rotational dynamics. These two methods provide a new capability representing a 'bridge' between the molecular scale and the engineering scale, allowing the study of fluid-nanoparticle systems over a wide range of length and timescales as well as particle concentrations. To validate these new methodologies, multi-million atoms simulations explicitly including the solvent have been carried out. These simulations have been vital in establishing the necessary 'subgrid' models for accurate prediction at a larger scale and refining the two coarse-grained methodologies.