Crystal orientation in semi-crystalline polymers tends to enhance their performance, such as increased yield strength and modulus, along the orientation direction. Zone annealing (ZA) orients the crystal lamellae through a sharp temperature gradient that effectively directs the crystal growth, but the sweep rate (VZA) of this gradient significantly impacts the extent of crystal orientation. Here, we demonstrate rotational zone annealing (RZA) as an efficient method to elucidate the influence of VZA on the crystal morphology of thin films in a single experiment using isotactic poly(1-butene), PB-1, as a model semi-crystalline polymer. These RZA results are confirmed using standard, serial linear ZA to tune the structure from an almost unidirectional oriented morphology to weakly oriented spherulites. The overall crystallinity is only modestly changed in comparison to isothermal crystallization (maximum of 55% from ZA vs. 48% for isothermal crystallization). However, the average grain size increases and the spherulites become anisotropic from ZA. Due to these structural changes, the Young's modulus of the oriented films, both parallel and perpendicular to the spherulite orientation direction, is significantly increased by ZA. The modulus does become anisotropic after ZA due to the directionality in the crystal structure, with more than a threefold increase in the modulus parallel to the orientation direction for the highest oriented film in comparison to the modulus from isothermal crystallization. RZA enables rapid identification of conditions to maximize orientation of crystals in thin polymer films, which could find utility in determining conditions to improve crystallinity and performance in organic electronics.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics