According to linear response theory, all relaxation functions in the linear regime can be obtained using time correlation functions calculated under equilibrium. In this paper, we demonstrate that the cross correlations make a significant contribution to the partial stress relaxation functions in polymer melts. We present two illustrations in the context of polymer rheology using (1) Brownian dynamics simulations of a single chain model for entangled polymers, the slip-spring model, and (2) molecular dynamics simulations of a multichain model. Using the single chain model, we analyze the contribution of the confining potential to the stress relaxation and the plateau modulus. Although the idea is illustrated with a particular model, it applies to any single chain model that uses a potential to confine the motion of the chains. This leads us to question some of the assumptions behind the tube theory, especially the meaning of the entanglement molecular weight obtained from the plateau modulus. To shed some light on this issue, we study the contribution of the nonbonded excluded-volume interactions to the stress relaxation using the multichain model. The proportionality of the bonded/nonbonded contributions to the total stress relaxation (after a density dependent "colloidal" relaxation time) provides some insight into the success of the tube theory in spite of using questionable assumptions. The proportionality indicates that the shape of the relaxation spectrum can indeed be reproduced using the tube theory and the problem is reduced to that of finding the correct prefactor. (c) 2007 American Institute of Physic
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