Raman analysis of bond conformations in the rotator state and premelting of normal alkanes†
We perform Raman spectroscopic measurements on normal alkanes (CnH2n+2) to quantify the n dependence of the conformational disorder that occurs below the melt temperature. We employ a three-state spectral analysis method originally developed for semi-crystalline polyethylene that posits crystalline, amorphous, and non-crystalline consecutive trans (NCCT) conformations to extract their respective mass fractions. For the alkanes studied that melt via a rotator phase (21 ≤ n ≤ 37), we find that conformational disorder can be quantified by the loss of NCCT mass fraction, which systematically decreases with increasing chain length. For those that melt directly via the crystal phase (n ≥ 40), we observe NCCT conformational mass fractions that are independent of chain length but whose disordered mass fraction increases with length. These complement prior IR measurements which measure disorder via gauche conformations, but have not been able to measure the mass fraction of this disorder as a function of n. An interesting feature of the three-state analysis when applied to alkanes is that the measured fraction of disordered chain conformations in the rotator phase of (10 to 30)% greatly exceeds the mass fraction of gauche bonds (1 to 7)% as measured from IR; we reconcile this difference through DFT calculations.