Zone annealing, a directional crystallization technique originally used for the purification of semiconductors, is applied here to crystalline polymers. Tight control over the final lamellar orientation and thickness of semicrystalline polymers can be obtained by directionally solidifying the material under optimal conditions. It has previously been postulated by Lovinger and Gryte that, at steady state, the crystal growth rate of a polymer undergoing zone annealing is equal to the velocity at which the sample is drawn through the temperature gradient. These researchers further implied that directional crystallization only occurs below a critical velocity, when crystal growth rate dominates over nucleation. Here, we perform an analysis of small-angle X-ray scattering, differential scanning calorimetry, and cross-polarized optical microscopy of zone-annealed poly(ethylene oxide) to examine these conjectures. Our long period data validate the steady-state ansatz, while an analysis of Herman's orientation function confirms the existence of a transitional region around a critical velocity, vcrit, where there is a coexistence of oriented and isotropic domains. Below vcrit, directional crystallization is achieved, while above vcrit, the mechanism more closely resembles that of conventional isotropic isothermal crystallization.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Organic Chemistry
- Polymers and Plastics
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Materials Chemistry