Metal nanoparticles are used to modify/enhance the properties of a polymer matrix for a broad range of applications in bio-nanotechnology. Here, we study the properties of polymer/gold nanoparticle (NP) nanocomposites through atomistic molecular dynamics, MD, simulations. We probe the structural, conformational and dynamical properties of polymer chains at the vicinity of a gold (Au) NP and a functionalized (core/shell) Au NP, and compare them against the behavior of bulk polyethylene (PE). The bare Au NPs were constructed via a systematic methodology starting from ab-initio calculations and an atomistic Wulff construction algorithm resulting in the crystal shape with the minimum surface energy. For the functionalized NPs the interactions between gold atoms and chemically adsorbed functional groups change their shape. As a model polymer matrix we consider polyethylene of different molecular lengths, from the oligomer to unentangled Rouse like systems. The PE/Au interaction is parametrized via DFT calculations. By computing the different properties the concept of the interface, and the interphase as well, in polymer nanocomposites with metal NPs are critically examined. Results concerning polymer density profiles, bond order parameter, segmental and terminal dynamics show clearly that the size of the interface/interphase, depends on the actual property under study. In addition, the anchored polymeric chains change the behavior/properties, and especially the chain density profile and the dynamics, of the polymer chain at the vicinity of the Au NP.
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