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Property ID: 1
Year: 2018

Advances in polymer crystallization

First published: 12 September 2018 



René Androsch, Maria Laura Di Lorenzo, Christoph Schick


Polymer crystallization is a fascinating branch of polymer science, from both an engineering and a fundamental science point‐of‐view. Many polymers are able to crystallize, which endows them with properties that make them useful for numerous applications in all areas of life, including simple housewares, in electronics and automotive industries, in chemical and civil engineering, textiles, or for sporting goods. Besides such traditional areas of application, there are many more uses that are less familiar, for example as biomaterials for implants in human bodies, for controlled drug delivery, as sensors in electronic devices, or for high‐performance applications in aircrafts. There are many challenges from an engineering standpoint, requiring continuing research into the characteristics of the crystalline phase in such application‐relevant materials. These include the further establishment of crystallizable polymers obtained from short‐term renewable resources for replacement of traditional petroleum‐based polymeric materials, improvement of the performance of semicrystalline polymers by reducing the amount of material needed to fulfill specifications, for example by tailoring semicrystalline morphologies, or the control of their degradation in the environment, which typically is delayed if crystals are present.

Polymer crystallization research has been ongoing since the first synthesis of crystallizable polymers, with major activities documented in the literature in the last century. Formation of polymeric crystals often does not follow simple rules of thermodynamics, but is instead largely kinetically controlled, yielding arrested, non‐equilibrium structures of different stability and properties. One of the many challenges to solve is understanding the relationship between the molecular architecture of a polymer, the different available pathways of crystal nucleation and growth, the final semicrystalline morphology, and their ultimate property profile. Despite the progress that has been achieved in the last decades of polymer crystallization research, many seemingly simple questions are still not answered. These include, for instance, the attempt to explain the origin of crystal polymorphism, that is, whether the formation of different polymorphs is controlled by thermodynamics or just caused by the interplay of the growing crystal phase with the surrounding amorphous structure. A model to explain the kinetics of the crystallization process was presented in the 1970s. However, this theory is frequently challenged and attempts are made to refine and improve it based on advances in instrumentation, allowing an increase in the database toward shorter and longer time scales of crystallization processes, or progress in computer simulations of crystallization, with ongoing discussions and new models under active debate. In particular, the covalent linkage at the interface of the crystal phase and the surrounding non‐ordered structure may play a decisive role, as the coupling of phases not only controls secondary crystal growth, but also the maximum crystal fraction and with that all the properties making semicrystalline polymers candidates for engineering applications.

To celebrate the launch of Polymer Crystallization, this special issue presents papers which highlight many of the above arguments, justifying the establishment of a dedicated journal as a unique platform for knowledge exchange within the polymer crystallization community. In addition, it may also provide novel information for a broader audience in the fields of polymeric material development, or in sister disciplines focusing on non‐polymeric or biological systems. This issue contains articles from multiple perspectives, in which the importance of polymer crystallization is highlighted from an industrial viewpoint, with the industry being a benchmark/indicator for the success of research when converting fundamental science knowledge for the generation of new products with improved performance. New information about the formation and stability of crystals is provided by other articles through the use of novel instrumentation, allowing the assessment of structural changes at the shortest time scales. Modeling of industrially important non‐isothermal crystallization is also covered, as well as how the linkage of crystals with the amorphous phase affect the properties of that phase.

Overall, we believe that this new platform is an excellent opportunity for polymer scientists in all disciplines, including chemistry, physics, and engineering, for providing new knowledge from their perspective toward better understanding and control of polymer crystallization.



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