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The Structure and Properties of Silica Glass Nanostructures using Novel Computational Systems


The structure and properties of silica glass nanostructures are examined using computational methods in this work. Standard synthesis methods of silica and its associated material properties are first discussed in brief. A review of prior experiments on this amorphous material is also presented. Background and methodology for the simulation of mechanical tests on amorphous bulk silica and nanostructures are later presented. A new computational system for the accurate and fast simulation of silica glass is also presented, using an appropriate interatomic potential for this material within the open-source molecular dynamics computer program LAMMPS. This alternative computational method uses modern graphics processors, Nvidia CUDA technology and specialized scientific codes to overcome processing speed barriers common to traditional computing methods. In conjunction with a virtual reality system used to model select materials, this enhancement allows the addition of accelerated molecular dynamics simulation capability. The motivation is to provide a novel research environment which simultaneously allows visualization, simulation, modeling and analysis. The research goal of this project is to investigate the structure and size dependent mechanical properties of silica glass nanohelical structures under tensile MD conditions using the innovative computational system. Specifically, silica nanoribbons and nanosprings are evaluated which revealed unique size dependent elastic moduli when compared to the bulk material. For the nanoribbons, the tensile behavior differed widely between the models simulated, with distinct characteristic extended elastic regions. In the case of the nanosprings simulated, more clear trends are observed. In particular, larger nanospring wire cross-sectional radii (r) lead to larger Young's moduli, while larger helical diameters (2R) resulted in smaller Young's moduli. Structural transformations and theoretical models are also analyzed to identify possible factors which might affect the mechanical response of silica nanostructures under tension. The work presented outlines an innovative simulation methodology, and discusses how results can be validated against prior experimental and simulation findings. The ultimate goal is to develop new computational methods for the study of nanostructures which will make the field of materials science more accessible, cost effective and efficient.

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