Now, a consortium of researchers from Constance, Bayreuth, and Berlin has successfully used this plastic to synthesize the ideal polymer nanocrystal. The prerequisite was a new type of catalyst produced by Constance University researchers as well as a combination of unique analytic tools like those found at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB).
Polymer chain incorporation during formation of ideal PE-nanocrystals by catalytic insertion polymerization with a water-soluble Ni(II) catalyst. The amorphous layers covering both platelets act as the wheels of a pulley just changing the direction of the chains. A moderate raise of the temperature induces sufficient mobility that allows the chains to move within the crystal.
The crystalline nanostructure, which gives the polymer its new properties, could prove of interest to production of new kinds of coatings. The scientists’ findings are being published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society’s current issue (DOI: 10.1021/ja4052334).
Bringing materials with a disordered (amorphous) molecular structure into a crystalline form is a common endeavor pursued by chemists and material scientists alike. Often, it is only the crystalline structure which gives a material its desired properties. Therefore, basic science researchers have been interested in trying to identify physical principles that underlie the transition from a structure’s amorphous to its crystalline phase.
The most effective analytic tool that is needed for this is really a combination of various methods that are nowhere as concentrated as they are in Berlin. For the last three years, the HZB and Humboldt University Berlin have been running their Joint Lab for Structural Research. For Humboldt University, the lab was a key factor in their excellence initiative concept.
High polymer compounds like polyethylene, which exist as long molecular chains, are typically partly crystalline, meaning they consist of lamellar-like polyethylene crystals that are coated by a layer of amorphous polyethylene. These amorphous phases are characterized by a series of imperfections like knots. However, within an “ideal” nanocrystal, the amorphous regions act like deflection pulleys that change the direction of chains within the crystal by 180 degrees (see image).
Synthesis of such an ideal crystal has now been accomplished with the help of a new water-soluble catalyst, which allows for polymerization of ethylene in the aqueous phase. In the process, newly developing parts of the molecular chain are immediately incorporated into the growing crystal so that imperfections like entanglements are not allowed to form within the amorphous regions. The researchers gleaned these insights using X-ray diffraction methods and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (TEM).
The nanocrystal suspension was produced by Prof. Stefan Mecking’s group at Constance University. For the cryo-TEM, HZB scientist Prof. Matthias Ballauff and his team produced a thin film of an aqueous polyethylene nanocrystal suspension and shock-froze it using cryogenically liquefied ethane. This resulted in formation of a glass-like solidified water modification, and the polyethylene nanocrystals enclosed within it can be analyzed using an electron microscope. The suspensions were also subjected to small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS).
At a resolution of approximately one nanometer, the cryo TEM is the perfect tool for studying the tiniest structures within microemulsions and colloidal solutions. Along with X-ray diffraction experiments, this method has helped document the presence of perfect polymer nanocrystals. Says Matthias Ballauff: “This work shows that by combining microscopy and scattering, even complex systems can be analyzed with a degree of precision that is impossible using either method alone.”
Original article in Journal of the American Chemical Society
Dr. Ina Helms | Helmholtz-Zentrum
Mat4Rail: EU Research Project on the Railway of the Future
23.02.2018 | Universität Bremen
Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected
21.02.2018 | North Carolina State University
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy