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The Evolution of Crystalline Structure during Gel Spinning of Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene Fibers


Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) fibers have been the subject of many investigations. Most studies are focused on the final mechanical properties of the fiber and the processing window required to achieve high modulus and tensile strength. Several studies have alluded that the crystalline morphology developed during gel spinning and post drawing are very important in final mechanical properties. However, it is surprising to know that no clear correlation exists between crystalline structure and initial, evolving, and final mechanical properties. In an attempt to define structure-property relationships, we have developed novel tools to quantify the effect of processing on crystalline structure evolution. We examine through controlled gel-spinning and SAXS analysis the effect of flow kinematics on the development of crystalline structure. Direct correlations are made between polymer solution relaxation time, extension rates, crystallization time and gel-spun crystalline morphology. We report direct evidence of flow induced crystallization, which approaches an asymptotic crystallization rate at high Weissenberg number. For Wi<1, the crystalline structure is only slightly affected from equilibrium. For Wi>1, the crystalline structure is highly anisotropic due to chain orientation/stretch during spinning. Fibers spun at different Weissenberg numbers are drawn to low draw ratios at constant temperature to measure the initial structure evolution. A qualitative SAXS analysis clearly shows similar evolution of different starting structures with formation of more straight chain crystals upon drawing. However, there remains quantitative differences between the length of straight chain crystal and the size and distribution of lamellae domains depending on the starting structure.

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Publication details

The article was received on 03 Aug 2018, accepted on 04 Oct 2018 and first published on 11 Oct 2018

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8SM01597J
Citation: Soft Matter, 2018, Accepted Manuscript
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    The Evolution of Crystalline Structure during Gel Spinning of Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene Fibers

    C. K. Henry, G. R. Palmese and N. J. Alvarez, Soft Matter, 2018, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C8SM01597J

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