Title page for ETD etd-06022009-173135

Type of Document Dissertation
Author McGrady, Christopher Dwain
URN etd-06022009-173135
Title Linking Rheological and Processing Behavior to Molecular Structure in Sparsely-Branched Polyethylenes Using Constitutive Relationships
Degree PhD
Department Chemical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Baird, Donald G. Committee Chair
Davis, Richey M. Committee Member
Moore, Robert B. Committee Member
Walz, John Y. Committee Member
  • film-casting
  • Pom-pom model
  • encapsulation
  • rheology
  • polyethylene
Date of Defense 2009-05-22
Availability restricted

This dissertation works towards the larger objective of identifying and assessing the key features of molecular structure that lead to desired polymer processing performance with an ultimate goal of being able to tailor-make specific macromolecules that yield the desired processing response. A series of eight well-characterized, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) resins, with varying degrees of sparse long chain branching (LCB) content, is used to study the effect of both LCB content and distribution on the rheological and commercial processing response using the Pom-pom constitutive relationship. A flow instability known as ductile failure in extensional flow required the development a novel technique known as encapsulation in order to carry out shear-free rheological characterization.

Ductile failure prevents the rheological measurement of transient stress growth at higher strains for certain strain-hardening materials. This reduces the accuracy of nonlinear parameters for constitutive equations fit from transient stress growth data, as well as their effectiveness in modeling extensionally driven processes such as film casting. An experimental technique to overcome ductile failure called encapsulation in which the material that undergoes ductile failure is surrounded by a resin that readily deforms homogeneously at higher strains is introduced. A simple parallel model is shown to calculate the viscosity of the core material.

The effect of sparse long chain branching, LCB, on the film-casting process is analyzed at various drawdown ratios. A full rheological characterization in both shear and shear-free flows is also presented. At low drawdown ratios, the low-density polyethylenes, LDPE, exhibited the least degree of necking at distances less than the HDPE frostline. The sparsely-branched HDPE resins films had similar final film-widths that were larger than those of the linear HDPE. As the drawdown ratio was increased, film width profiles separated based on branching level. Small amounts of LCB were found to reduce the amount of necking at intermediate drawdown ratios. At higher drawdown ratios, the sparsely-branched HDPE resins of lower LCB had content film-widths that mimicked that of the linear HDPE, while the sparsely-branched HDPE resins of higher LCB content retained a larger film width. Molecular structural analysis via the Pom-pom constitutive model suggested that branching that was distributed across a larger range of backbone lengths serve to improve resistance to necking. As the drawdown ratio increased, the length of the backbones dominating the response decreased, so that the linear chains were controlling the necking behavior of the sparsely-branched resins of lower LCB content while remaining in branched regime for higher LCB content HDPEs. Other processing variables such as shear viscosity magnitude, extrudate swell, and non-isothermal processing conditions were eliminated as contributing factors to the differences in the film width profile.

The effect of sparse long chain branching, LCB, on the shear step-strain relaxation modulus is analyzed using a series of eight well-characterized, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) resins. The motivation for this work is in assessing the ability of step-strain flows to provide specific information about a material’s branching architecture. Fundamental to this goal is proving the validity of relaxation moduli data at times shorter than the onset of time-strain separability. Strains of 1% to 1250% are imposed on materials with LCB content ranging from zero to 3.33 LCB per 10,000 carbon atoms. All materials are observed to obey time-strain separation beyond some characteristic time, τk. The presence of LCB is observed to increase the value of τk relative to the linear resin. Furthermore, the amount of LCB content is seen to correlate positively with increasing τk. The behavior of the relaxation modulus at times shorter than τk is investigated by an analysis of the enhancement seen in the linear relaxation modulus, G0(t), as a function of strain and LCB content. This enhancement is seen to 1) increase with increasing strain in all resins, 2) be significantly larger in the sparsely-branched HDPE resins relative to the linear HDPE resin, and 3) increase in magnitude with increasing LCB content. The shape and smoothness of the damping function is investigated to rule out the presence of wall-slip and material rupture during testing. The finite rise time to impose the desired strain is carefully monitored and compared to the Rouse relaxation time of the linear HDPE resins studied. Sparse LCB is found to increase the magnitude of the relaxation modulus at short times relative to the linear resin. It is shown that these differences are due to variations in the material architecture, specifically LCB content, and not because of mechanical anomalies.

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