Imaging Polymer Crystal Structures

The properties of semicrystalline polymers such as mechanical properties, gas barrier performance, transparency and degradability are strongly influenced by their crystallinity.  We have recently been successful in applying electron ptychography using the (S)TEM to gain high resolution images of the crystal structures of polymers and peptides.  Already we have shown adjustments to the previous models (formed from the more limited information gained from diffraction), imaging of various degrees of disorder in crystallizing systems, and information on bending and bifurcation of polymer crystallites. This project seeks to use this high level microscopy and crystallographic studies, in combination with other techniques, to extend the work to other polymer systems.  One area of interest would be crystallization studies to support the development of high-performing recyclable or biodegradable polymers for packaging applications: the materials, formulation and processing parameters are not well-optimised for these materials in comparison to the current established materials that contribute to the plastic waste problem. In order to compete in the market, control of crystallization, and hence performance of these materials needs to be rapidly be understood and established.


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