Molecular Modeling of Polymer Free Volume
Callander, Derrick Bernard
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Free volume and free volume distribution have long been used to explain differences in the gas transport properties of polymeric materials. However, only a few experimental techniques allow a comprehensive evaluation of polymeric void space. Through the use of computer simulations, the free volume was characterized of two polyester systems used for beverage packaging and polynorbornene, a unique polymer with possible applications in both microelectronic fabrication and membrane separations. Delaunay Tessellation was used to calculate the fractional free volume (FFV) of both polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) molecular models. It was hypothesized that differences in the FFV distributions could be used to explain the higher experimental O2 solubility in PEN relative to PET. The analysis showed that there was no statistical difference between the FFV distributions for O2 sized penetrants. Clustering analysis was performed based upon the tetrahedra formed by Delaunay Tessellation to examine the connectivity of free volume pockets. These results show that there is a statistically larger number of small (containing less than 10 tetrahedra/cluster and between 20-30 and #506;3 in volume) clusters in PEN. It is this difference in small clusters which provides for the 30% higher O2 solubility in PEN. The free volume of a representative high molecular weight amorphous model of Hexafluroalcohol Subsituted Polynorbornene (HFA-PNB) was also characterized in to examine the shape of the free volume cavities and to draw correlations with the mean lifetime of ortho-positronium (o-Ps) from Positron Annihilation Lifetime Spectroscopy (PALS). Delaunay Tessellation and clustering analysis indicated that the free volume clusters in high molecular weight HFA-PNB are slightly non-spherical. Correcting lifetimes for the somewhat non-spherical shape of these free volume clusters was insufficient to reproduce experimentally measured positron annihilation lifetimes because the clusters contained many tortuous connections within the clusters. Inclusion of this connectivity information does produce a more accurate estimate of the measured life times. This indicates that the o-Ps does sample many tetrahedra in these static clusters, but does not freely sample every section of these clusters.