For centuries, researchers have been trying to achieve precise control and tailor materials properties. Several approaches, i.e., thermo-activation, electro-activation, and photo-activation, have been widely utilized. As an alternate and fundamentally different approach, mechano-activation is still relatively less-known. In particular, understanding the roles of mechano-activated electronic and molecular structures is yet to be achieved.
This research contributes the fundamental understanding in mechanisms of mechano-activation and its effects on materials properties. Experimental investigation and theoretical analysis were involved in the present research. A methodology was developed to introduce the mechnao-activation and to study its subsequent effects. There are three major areas of investigation involved. First, the means to introduce mechano-activation, such as energetic particle collision or a bending deformation (tensile force); Second, in-situ and ex-situ characterization using AFM, FTIR, UV-Vis, and XPS etc. techniques; Third, theoretical analysis through modified Lennard-Jones potentials in order to explain the behavior of materials under mechano-activation.
In the present research, experiments on a Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) film, a Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF) film, and the Silver-Crown Ether nanochains (Ag-NCs) were carried out. For DLC, the collision-induced transformation between hybridization states of carbon was confirmed, which also dominated the friction behavior of the film. For PVDF, results show that the applied tensile force induced the transformation of α, β, and γ crystalline phase. In addition, the transformation observed was time and direction dependent. For Ag-NCs, a new approach based on the mechanism of mechano-activation was developed for nanochain structure synthesis. Molecular dynamics simulation and experimental results revealed that the formation of Ag-NCs is a synergetic physical-chemical procedure. Experimental results from DLC and PVDF were further used to validate the proposed potential, which brought new insight into the activation process. The current research achieves a precise control on engineering materials properties. The force-activated materials have wide applications in many areas, such as functional coating, sensing, and catalysis.
In this study selected experiments have demonstrated the effects of mechano-activation in different material systems (ceramic, polymer, metallic nano structure) and at different length scales. For the first time, a modified potential was proposed to explain the observed mechano-activation phenomena from the energy point of view. It was validated by experimental results of DLC and PVDF. The current research brings new understanding in mechano-activation and opens potential for its applications in tailoring materials properties.