Highly stable petroleum pitches provide access to the deep glassy state†
Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) was used to study the fast aging behavior of two petroleum pitch materials despite being only three to five years old. We observe that these highly aromatic pitches with broad distributions of both molecular weight and aromaticity exhibit large enthalpic relaxation endotherms in initial DSC heating scans, and 20–32 °C reductions in the fictive temperature and 0.35–0.87 of θK, which are indicative of aged glasses similar to ultrastable glasses and 20 MA aged amber. Quantifying the degree of thermodynamic stability relative to the Kauzmann temperature vs. the aging time demonstrates that these materials age just as quickly as low fragility metallic glasses. Additionally, we observe that pitches age faster than polymers reported in the literature when compared using down-jump experiments. We hypothesize that the fraction of higher aromaticity of pitch molecules plays a crucial role in faster dynamics. The unique aging behavior and the ability to produce pitches in bulk quantities using pilot-scale equipment, while being possible to tailor their molecular composition, make them a useful material for studying complex aging dynamics in the deep glassy state.