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The Underestimated Effect of Intracrystalline Chain Dynamics on the Morphology and Stability of Semicrystalline Polymers

Schulz, Martha; Seidlitz, Anne; Kurz, Ricardo; Bärenwald, Ruth; Petzold, Albrecht; Saalwächter, Kay; Thurn-Albrecht, Thomas

By 12 March 2019No Comments

Macromolecules, 2018, vol 51, 21, pp. 8377-8385



Semicrystalline polymers have been classified into crystal-mobile and crystal-fixed polymers, depending on the existence or absence of intracrystalline chain dynamics. Although it was claimed that polymers with intracrystalline chain dynamics generally have a higher crystallinity, its effect on the semicrystalline morphology is not known in detail. Using a new approach for the quantitative analysis of small-angle X-ray scattering data, we compare the structural characteristics of fully crystallized samples for two model polymers with and without chain motion in the crystallites. Whereas for crystal-fixed polymers the semicrystalline morphology is characterized by lamellar crystals of well-defined thickness and marginal stability, the intracrystalline dynamics leads to additional stabilization of the crystals during growth and a minimization of the amorphous layers characterized by a well-defined thickness. Results of 1H solid-state NMR experiments enable us to determine the time scale of intracrystalline chain dynamics in the relevant temperature range and to relate it to the time scale of crystal growth. If both processes act on the same time scale, the crystallization process is an interplay between crystal growth and stabilization by reorganization enabled by intracrystalline mobility. Viewing this competition as fundamental for the formation of the semicrystalline morphology, seemingly contradictory models suggested in the past to describe polymer crystallization can at least be partially reconciled.

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