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Cloning Polymer Single Crystals through Self-seeding

Jianjun Xu, Yu Ma, Wenbing Hu, Matthias Rehahn, and Günter Reiter. Nature Materials 8, 348-353 (2009)

Abstract

In general, when a crystal is molten, all molecules forget about their mutual correlations and long-range order is lost. Thus, a regrown crystal does not inherit any features from an initially present crystal. Such is true for materials exhibiting a well-defined melting point. However, polymer crystallites have a wide range of melting temperatures, enabling paradoxical phenomena such as the coexistence of melting and crystallization. Here, we report a self-seeding technique that enables the generation of arrays of orientation-correlated polymer crystals of uniform size and shape ('clones') with their orientation inherited from an initial single crystal. Moreover, the number density and locations of these cloned crystals can to some extent be predetermined through the thermal history of the starting crystal. We attribute this unique behaviour of polymers to the coexistence of variable fold lengths in metastable crystalline lamellae, typical for ordering of complex chain-like molecules.

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