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Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Douglass S. Kalika


The relaxation characteristics of rubbery poly(ethylene oxide) [PEO] networks have been investigated as a function of network composition and architecture via dynamic mechanical analysis and broadband dielectric spectroscopy. A series of model networks were prepared via UV photopolymerization using poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate [PEGDA] as crosslinker: variations in crosslink density were achieved either by the introduction of water in the prepolymerization reaction mixture, or by the inclusion of mono-functional acrylate such as poly(ethylene glycol) methyl ether acrylate [PEGMEA] or poly(ethylene glycol) acrylate [PEGA]. Copolymerization with mono-functional acrylate led to the insertion of flexible branches along the network backbone, and the corresponding glass-rubber relaxation properties of the copolymers (i.e., Tg, relaxation breadth, fragility) were a sensitive function of network architecture and corresponding fractional free volume. Relatively subtle variations in network structure led to significant differences in relaxation characteristics, and a systematic series of studies was undertaken to examine the influence of branch length, branch end-group, and crosslinker flexibility on viscoelastic response. Dielectric spectroscopy was especially useful for the elucidation of localized, sub-glass relaxations in the polymer networks: the imposition of local constraint in the vicinity of the crosslink junctions led to the detection of a distinctive fast relaxation process in the networks that was similar to a comparable sub-glass relaxation observed in crystalline PEO and in the confined regions of PEO nanocomposites. Gas permeation studies on the model PEGDA networks confirmed their utility as highly-permeable, reverse-selective membrane materials, and strategic control of the network architecture could be used to optimize gas separation performance. Dynamic mechanical and dielectric measurements have also been performed on a semicrystalline polyester, poly(trimethylene terephthalate) [PTT], in order to assess the influence of processing history on the resultant morphology and corresponding viscoelastic relaxation characteristics. Studies on both quenched and annealed PTT revealed the presence of a substantial fraction of rigid amorphous phase (RAP) material in the crystalline samples: dielectric measurements showed a strong increase in relaxation intensity above the glass transition indicating a progressive mobilization of the rigid amorphous phase with increasing temperature prior to crystalline melting.



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