Relaxation of non-equilibrium entanglement networks in thin polymer films
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It is known that polymer films, prepared by spin coating, inherit non-equilibrium configurations which can affect macroscopic film properties. Here we present the results of crazing experiments that support this claim; our measurements indicate that the as-cast chain configurations are strongly stretched as compared to equilibrium Gaussian configurations. The results of our experiments also demonstrate that the entanglement network equilibrates on a time scale comparable to one reptation time. Having established that films can be prepared with an equilibrium entanglement network, we proceed by confining polymers to films in which the thickness is comparable to the molecular size. By stacking two such films, a bilayer is created with a buried entropic interface. Such an interface has no enthalpic cost, only an entropic penalty associated with the restricted configurations of molecules that cannot cross the mid-plane of the bilayer. In the melt, the entropic interface heals as chains from the two layers mix and entangle with one another; crazing measurements allow us to probe the dynamics of two films becoming one. Healing of the entropic interface is found to take less than one bulk reptation time.
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