Stress growth and relaxation of dendritically branched macromolecules in shear and uniaxial extension

Qian Huang, S. Costanzo, C. Das, Dimitrios Vlassopoulos

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We present unique nonlinear rheological data of well-defined symmetric Cayley-tree poly(methyl methacrylates) in shear and uniaxial extension. Earlier work has shown that their linear viscoelasticity is governed by the hierarchical relaxation of different generations, whereas the segments between branch points are responsible for their substantial strain hardening as compared to linear homopolymers of the same total molar mass at the same value of imposed stretch rate. Here, we extend that work in order to obtain further experimental evidence that will help understanding the molecular origin of the remarkable properties of these highly branched macromolecules. In particular, we address three questions pertinent to the specific molecular structure: (i) is steady state attainable during uniaxial extension? (ii) what is the respective transient response in simple shear? and (iii) how does stress relax upon cessation of extension or shear? To accomplish our goal we utilize state-of-the-art instrumentation, i.e., filament stretching rheometry (FSR) and cone-partitioned plate (CPP) shear rheometry for polymers with 3 and 4 generations, and complement it with state-of-the-art modeling predictions using the Branch-on-Branch (BoB) algorithm. The data indicates that the extensional viscosity reaches a steady state value, whose dependence on extension rate is identical to that of entangled linear and other branched polymer melts. Nonlinear shear is characterized by transient stress overshoots and the validity of the Cox-Merz rule. Remarkably, nonlinear stress relaxation is much broader and slower in extension compared to shear. It is also slower at higher generation, and rate-independent for rates below the Rouse rate of the outer segment. For extension, the relaxation time is longer than that of the linear stress relaxation, suggesting a strong ‘elastic memory’ of the material. These results are 2 described by BoB semi-quantitatively, both in linear and nonlinear shear and extensional regimes. Given the fact that the segments between branch points are less than 3 entanglements long, this is a very promising outcome that gives confidence in using BoB for understanding the key features. Moreover, the response of the segments between generations controls the rheology of the Cayley trees. Their substantial stretching in uniaxial extension appears responsible for strain hardening, whereas coupling of stretches of different parts of the polymer appears to be the origin of the slower subsequent relaxation of extensional stress. Concerning the latter effect, for which predictions are not available, it is hoped that the present experimental findings and proposed framework of analysis will motivate further developments in the direction of molecular constitutive models for branched and hyperbranched polymers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Rheology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)35-47
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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