Recent advances in post-stretching processing of polymer films with in situ synchrotron radiation X-ray scattering
The stretch-induced structural evolution mechanism is a long-standing scientific question in the post-stretching processing of polymer films. X-ray scattering, especially a combination of small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS), provides a powerful method to study the hierarchical structure of polymer films. Recent advances in synchrotron radiation (SR) light sources and detection techniques allow one to measure the structural evolution of polymer films during post-stretching processing in real time with ultrahigh time resolution, which benefits the understanding on this topic. This review summarizes some recent investigations on post-stretching processing of polymer films, which combine in situ X-ray scattering techniques with purposely designed tensile apparatus in terms of three aspects: uniaxial stretching, biaxial stretching and stretching with chemical reactions. Concerning the polymer bulk, traditional deformation mechanisms like stretch-induced crystallization (SIC), crystal slipping, phase transition and melting–recrystallization are discussed for the uniaxial and biaxial post-stretching of polymer films. New deformation models have been developed to focus on the structural evolution on the length scale of lamellar stacks, which consider the potential microphase separation of the interlamellar amorphous phase and microbuckling. For solution systems, the coupled effects of the mechanical work from external force and the chemical potential from possible chemical reactions are taken into account for the structural evolution during stretching in solution. Roadmaps of structural and morphological evolution in the processing parameter space (i.e., temperature, stress, strain and the concentration of additive in the bath solution) are eventually constructed for precursor films. The accumulation of a structural evolution database for post-stretching processing of polymer films can be expected to provide a helpful guide for industrial processing for high-performance polymers in the near future.