Early structural development in melt-quenched polymer PTT from atomistic molecular dynamic simulations

MK Hsieh and ST Lin, JOURNAL OF PHYSICS-CONDENSED MATTER, 21, 505101 (2009).

DOI: 10.1088/0953-8984/21/50/505101

Molecular dynamics simulations are performed to study the initial structural development in poly(trimethylene terephthalate) (PTT) when quenched below its melting point. The development of local ordering has been observed in our simulations. The thermal properties, such as the glass transition temperature (T-g) and the melting temperature (T-m), determined from our simulations are in reasonable agreement with experimental values. It is found that, between these two temperatures, the number of local structures quickly increases during the thermal relaxation period soon after the system is quenched and starts to fluctuate afterwards. The formation and development of local structures is found to be driven mainly by the torsional and van der Waals forces and follows the classical nucleation-growth mechanism. The variation of local structures' fraction with temperature exhibits a maximum between T-g and T-m, resembling the temperature dependence of the crystallization rate for most polymers. In addition, the backbone torsion distribution for segments within the local structures preferentially reorganizes to the trans-gauche-gauche-trans (t-g-g-t) conformation, the same as that in the crystalline state. As a consequence, we believe that such local structural ordering could be the baby nuclei that have been suggested to form in the early stage of polymer crystallization.

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