The marriage of two very different materials – like glass and plastic – offers new opportunities for materials scientists. Novel materials like this are especially interesting when the marriage happens at the atom scale, so that inorganic and organic domains are much smaller than the wavelength of visible light.
One scheme for manufacturing such materials is the novel twin polymerization, where the corresponding hybrid material is obtained from a single type of molecule in one step. While fascinating materials can be obtained from this synthesis, its mechanism is only poorly understood.
A. Auer at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung (Düsseldorf) in collaboration with co-workers and colleagues in Chemnitz and Moscow has now shown the application of atomistic calculations to unravel the elementary steps of the reaction and how to feed the results into a simplified model that allows to study the polymerization process from molten precursor to final nanocomposite.
This way, the authors are able to suggest a hypothesis for the reaction mechanism and to identify the most important influences that experimentalists may use to tailor the properties of materials to their needs.