Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Monodisperse/Bidisperse Polymer Melt Crystallization

V Triandafilidi and J Rottler and SG Hatzikiriakos, JOURNAL OF POLYMER SCIENCE PART B-POLYMER PHYSICS, 54, 2318-2326 (2016).

DOI: 10.1002/polb.24142

We use large scale coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations to study the kinetics of polymer melt crystallization. For monodisperse polymer melts of several chain lengths under various cooling protocols, we show that short chains have a higher terminal crystallinity value compared to longer ones. They align at the early stages and then cease evolving. Long chains, however, align, fold into lamella structures and then slowly optimize their dangling ends for the remaining simulation time. We then identify the mechanism behind bidisperse blend crystallization. To this end, we introduce a new algorithm (called Individual Chain Crystallinity) that allows the calculation of the crystallinity separately for short and long chains in the blend. We find that, in general, bidispersity hinders crystallization significantly. At first the crystallinity of the long chain components exceeds that of the monodisperse melt, but subsequently falls below the corresponding monodisperse melt curve after a certain "crossover time." The time of the crossover can be attributed to the time required for the full crystallization of the short chains. This indicates that at the early stages the short chains are helping long chains to crystallize. However, after all short chains have crystallized they start to hinder the crystallization of the long chains by obstructing their motion. Lastly, polymer crystallization upon various thermodynamic protocols is studied. Slower cooling is found to increase the crystallinity value. Upon an instantaneous deep quench and subsequent isothermal relaxation, the crystallinity grows rapidly with time at early stages and subsequently saturates. (C) 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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