Dependence of physical and mechanical properties on polymer architecture for model polymer networks
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Effect of architecture at nanoscale on the macroscopic properties of polymer materials has long been a field of major interest, as evidenced by inhomogeneities in networks, multimodal network topologies, etc. The primary purpose of this research is to establish the architecture-property relationship of polymer networks by studying the physical and mechanical responses of a series of topologically different PTHF networks. Monodispersed allyl-terminated PTHF precursors were synthesized through ¡°living¡± cationic polymerization and functional end-capping. Model networks of various crosslink densities and inhomogeneities levels (unimodal, bimodal and clustered) were prepared by endlinking precursors via thiol-ene reaction. Thermal characteristics, i.e., glass transition, melting point, and heat of fusion, of model PTHF networks were investigated as functions of crosslink density and inhomogeneities, which showed different dependence on these two architectural parameters. Study of freezing point depression (FPD) of solvent confined in swollen networks indicated that the size of solvent microcrystals is comparable to the mesh size formed by intercrosslink chains depending on crosslink density and inhomogeneities. Relationship between crystal size and FPD provided a good reflection of the existing architecture facts in the networks. Mechanical responses of elastic chains to uniaxial strains were studied through SANS. Spatial inhomogeneities in bimodal and clustered networks gave rise to ¡°abnormal butterfly patterns¡±, which became more pronounced as elongation ratio increases. Radii of gyration of chains were analyzed at directions parallel and perpendicular to stretching axis. Dependence of Rg on ¦Ë was compared to three rubber elasticity models and the molecular deformation mechanisms for unimodal, bimodal and clustered networks were explored. The thesis focused its last part on the investigation of evolution of free volume distribution of linear polymer (PE) subjected to uniaxial strain at various temperatures using a combination of MD, hard sphere probe method and Voronoi tessellation. Combined effects of temperature and strain on free volume were studied and mechanism of formation of large and ellipsoidal free volume voids was explored.