Semicrystalline polymers of low glass transition temperature, such as polyethylene (PE), can be either brittle or ductile depending on their content of intercrystallite stress transmitters-such as tie molecules (TMs), chains that directly bridge the intercrystalline amorphous layer. TM content will increase with increasing molecular weight (M) or with the fraction of high-M chains in a disperse polymer and with decreasing intercrystallite repeat spacing d, which can be manipulated through thermal history and the incorporation of comonomer. The present work examines the failure mode of model narrow-distribution linear PEs (LPEs) of high crystallinity, where d is varied through crystallization history (either quenching or slowly cooling), and ethylene-butene copolymers (hydrogenated polybutadienes (hPBs)) of moderate crystallinity, where d is limited by the short-branch content. For each series (LPEs with different thermal histories and quenched hPBs), a rather sharp brittle-to-ductile transition (BDT) is observed with increasing M, at a value MBDT. However, across the three series, the value of MBDT does not depend solely on the value of d; indeed, a higher M is required to achieve ductility in quenched samples of hPB than in LPE, despite the much lower values of d for hPB. Consequently, the calculated value of TM fraction at the BDT increases strongly as crystallinity decreases, by a factor of ∼50 from slow-cooled LPE to quenched hPB. This strong dependence is explained by considering the influence of TMs on the brittle fracture stress (σb), with the BDT occurring when there are sufficient TMs for σb to exceed the yield stress (σy), which is strongly dependent on crystallinity but independent of TM content.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Organic Chemistry
- Polymers and Plastics
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Materials Chemistry