Nanostructural changes in crystallizable controlling units determine the temperature-memory of polymers
Journal of Materials Chemistry A 16 (3): 8284-8293 (2015)
Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
Temperature-memory polymers remember the temperature, where they were deformed recently, enabled by broad thermal transitions. In this study, we explored a series of crosslinked poly[ethylene-co-(vinyl acetate)] networks (cPEVAs) comprising crystallizable polyethylene (PE) controlling units exhibiting a pronounced temperature-memory effect (TME) between 16 and 99 °C related to a broad melting transition (∼100 °C). The nanostructural changes in such cPEVAs during programming and activation of the TME were analyzed via in situ X-ray scattering and specific annealing experiments. Different contributions to the mechanism of memorizing high or low deformation temperatures (T<inf>deform</inf>) were observed in cPEVA, which can be associated to the average PE crystal sizes. At high deformation temperatures (>50 °C), newly formed PE crystals, which are established during cooling when fixing the temporary shape, dominated the TME mechanism. In contrast, at low T<inf>deform</inf> (<50 °C), corresponding to a cold drawing scenario, the deformation led preferably to a disruption of existing large crystals into smaller ones, which then fix the temporary shape upon cooling. The observed mechanism of memorizing a deformation temperature might enable the prediction of the TME behavior and the knowledge based design of other TMPs with crystallizable controlling units.