Chain Entanglement in Thin Freestanding Polymer Films
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When a thin glassy film is strained uniaxially, a shear deformation zone (SDZ) can be observed. The ratio of the thickness of the SDZ to that of the undeformed film is related to the maximum extension ratio, lambda, which depends on the entanglement molecular weight, M(e). We have measured lambda as a function of film thickness in strained freestanding films of polystyrene as a probe of M(e) in confinement. It is found that thin films stretch further than thick films before failure, consistent with the interpretation that polymers in thin films are less entangled than bulk polymers, thus the effective value of M(e) in thin films is significantly larger than that of the bulk. Our results are well described by a conceptually simple model based on the probability of finding intermolecular entanglements near an interface.
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