Polymer deformation in flow

Project Leader: David Dunstan
Staff: Nicolas Bertin
Collaborators: Trevor Smith (Chemistry), John Sader (Mathematics)
Sponsors: Australian Research Council
Primary Contact: David Dunstan (davided@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: macromolecular science
Disciplines: Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences

A founding assumption of polymer dynamics in flow is that the chains extend. Polymer elasticity arises from the deformation of the chains under applied stress. The simple rubber band is a familiar example of this important class of materials. Stretching the rubber stores elastic energy in the deformed polymer chains. Similarly, compressing a piece of rubber also involves elastic deformation based on the same physics. This property imbues polymeric materials their unique properties that make them common in all aspects of our lives. Despite the wide range of applications of polymers, such as in coatings, plastics, rubbers and fibres, and their unique properties of elasticity and plasticity, the theory of polymer dynamics has yet to be comprehensively tested experimentally at the molecular level.

The proposed research will quantify polymer deformation at the molecular level using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) tagged synthetic polymers to directly measure single chain end-to-end distances in flow.

This project aims:

1. to quantify polymer elastic deformation in flow

2. to connect the molecular to macroscopic behaviour of polymers, and

3. to comprehensively test the founding assumptions of polymer physics in flow.

The experimentally determined chain end-to-end distances will be used to assess the founding assumptions of the current models over a range of conditions and generate experimental foundations for further development. The project will progress the experimental understanding of synthetic polymers in flow over a range of parameter space as a foundation for the development of improved models.