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Processing Pathways Decide Polymer Properties at the Molecular Level

S. Chandran, J. Baschnagel, D. Cangialosi, K. Fukao, E. Glynos, L. M. C. Janssen, M. Müller, M. Muthukumar, U. Steiner, J. Xu, S. Napolitano, and G. Reiter. Macromolecules 52 (2019) 7146-7156

Conditions of rapid processing often drive polymers to adopt non-equilibrium molecular conformations, which, in turn, can give rise to structural, dynamical and mechanical properties that are significantly different from those in thermodynamic equilibrium. However, despite the possibility to control the desired non-equilibrium properties of polymers, a rigorous microscopic understanding of the processing-property relations is currently lacking. In an attempt to stimulate progress along this topical direction, we focus here on three prototypical and apparently different cases: spin-coated polymer films, rapidly drawn polymer fibers, and sheared polymer melts. Inspired by the presence of common observations in the chosen cases, we search for order parameters, as e.g., topological correlations and heterogeneities, that may allow characterizing the processing-induced behavior of polymers. We highlight that such approaches, necessitating concerted efforts from theory, simulations, and experiments, can provide a profound understanding leading to predictable and tunable properties of polymers.

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