Simulation of the Evolution of the Nanostructure of Crosslinked Silica-Aerogels under Compression
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Silica-aerogels are ultra-low-density assemblies of silica nanoparticles, and possess superior acoustic, specific energy absorption and thermal insulation properties. A new class of aerogels encapsulated with polymer is classified as crosslinked silica-aerogels. Manufacturing of such crosslinked silica-aerogel structures, depending on the type and shape of the nanoparticles, the polymer cross-linker and the chemistry in use, yields structures with vastly different morphologies and a wide range of mechanical behavior. With this, it has become necessary to understand the nanostructure / macroscopic properties relationship. Modeling of the aerogel material properties from mesoscale and up approach is needed, which is not considered by the current phenomenological models based on continuum material assumption. Most of the existing simulation methodologies face difficulties mainly due to complex nanostructures, large distortions, and extensive contact. A relatively new numerical method called Material Point Method (MPM) can circumvent these problems. For example, MPM has been used effectively in modeling the microstructural evolution of the bulk metallic glass foam with 70% porosity, where 3D X-Ray microtomography was used first to obtain the representative volume element (RVE) of the closed-cell foam . Due to the particle description of matter, MPM is a very suitable for silica-aerogel simulations. In this regard, an approach based on X-Ray nano-computed tomography (n-CT) will be used to model cross-linked aerogel mesostructure. The voxel information from the 3D tomography will be used to generate material points in MPM. The parallel version (using Structured Adaptive Mesh Refinement Application Infrastructure) of MPM code will be used to simulate the response of the model under compression. In this paper, the MPM is used to model a crosslinked templated silicaaerogel (X-MP4-T045) in compression, and the simulation results are compared with the compressive stress-strain curve obtained experimentally. This work will focus on the deformation mechanisms in crosslinked templated silica-aerogel such as the elastic buckling, compaction and densification, as well as the dependence of mechanical properties on the porosity effect for this crosslinked templated silica-aerogel.