Macromolecules, 2019, vol 52, 23, pp. 9186-9198
We previously showed that nanoparticles (NPs) could be ordered into structures by using the growth rate of polymer crystals as the control variable. In particular, for slow enough spherulitic growth fronts, the NPs grafted with amorphous polymer chains are selectively moved into the interlamellar, interfibrillar, and interspherulitic zones of a lamellar morphology, specifically going from interlamellar to interspherulitic with progressively decreasing crystal growth rates. Here, we examine the effect of NP polymer grafting density on crystallization kinetics. We find that while crystal nucleation is practically unaffected by the presence of the NPs, spherulitic growth, final crystallinity, and melting point values decrease uniformly as the volume fraction of the crystallizable polymer, poly(ethylene oxide) or PEO, ϕPEO, decreases. A surprising aspect here is that these results are apparently unaffected by variations in the relative amounts of the amorphous polymer graft and silica NPs at constant ϕ, implying that chemical details of the amorphous defect apparently only play a secondary role. We therefore propose that the grafted NPs in this size range only provide geometrical confinement effects which serve to set the crystal growth rates and melting point depressions without causing any changes to crystallization mechanisms.