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2005/06 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS3040 Introduction to Polymer Physics

10 creditsClass Size: 100

Module manager: Dr A M Voice

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2005/06


PHYS1041, PHYS1051, PHYS1150 AND PHYS1160 (or equivalent).

This module is not approved as an Elective


On completion of this module students should be able to:
- describe the structure of common polymers from the atomistic to the microscopic level, including single crystals and spherulites;
- discuss the factors affecting polymer crystallisation;
- describe the structure and properties of liquid crystalline polymers;
- explain the techniques of WAXD, DSC and density columns and be able to determine information about polymer crystals from experimental data;
- explain the importance of molecular orientation and describe methods of producing such order;
- describe the techniques of IR spectroscopy and Xray diffraction and the determination of birefringence, and use experimental data to determine a measure of the molecular orientation distribution;
- define the terms bulk modulus, shear modulus, Young modulus, poisson's ratio, stating their inter-relation and likely values for a rubbery material;
- make quantitative predictions of the mechanical properties of rubbers;
- explain and derive the statistical theory of rubber elasticity;
- describe the temperature dependence of the mechanical properties of polymers and explain and perform calculations on time-temperature superposition;
- explain and model the stress relaxation and creep of polymers in the viscoelastic regime, and use the Boltzmann superposition principle to compute the overall response to a multi-step loading program.

Skills outcomes
To solve problems related to theory and experimentsTo solve problems related to theory and experiments


Introduction: Chemical and long-chain nature, thermosets, thermoplastics, networks and rubbers, crystalline polymers, glasses, liquid crystalline polymers.
Morphology and crystal structure: Factors affecting crystallisation - regularity, stereoregularity and tacticity, intermolecular forces. Single crystals. Morphology - fringed micelle, chain-folded crystals, lamellae, spherulites,
non-crystalline material. Experimental techniques of WAXD, DSC and density columns. Liquid crystalline polymers
Introduction to Mechanical properties: Elastic properties of isotropic media at small strains.
Rubber elasticity: Large strain elasticity - the neo-Hookeian solid. Strain energy functions. Statistical theory of rubber elasticity - entropy of a single chain, elasticity of a network.
Linear visco-elastic behaviour: Creep and stress relaxation. Boltzmann superposition principle. Models. Glass transition. Time-temperature equivalence. Methods of measuring viscoelastic behaviour. Applications.
Importance of orientation. Methods of producing orientation. Characterisation of oriented polymers - birefringence, IR spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction. Affine and pseudo-affine models for molecular orientation.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Lectures, including worked examples: 22 x 1 hour;

Use of study pack with references and problems (with answers).

Private study

Private study and use of study pack: 78 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Self study pack contains examples with answers.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

1 x 2 hour exam written at the end of the semester: 100%.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 19/04/2005


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