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Correlation between Mechanical Properties and Structure in Polymer Gels with Controlled Network Structure

  • Takamasa Sakai (a1), Yuki Akagi (a1) and Ung-il Chung (a1)

Abstract

Elastmeric materials are of great importance in both academic and industrial field due to the soft and highly stretchable properties. Thus, many theories and models are proposed to correlate the physical properties and structural parameters. However, in general, it is difficult to validate these models experimentally. Thus, to this day, we do not know the requirement conditions for each model or even the validity of each model. The validation of these models has been inhibited by the inherent heterogeneity of polymer networks.

Recently, we, for the first time, succeeded in fabricating polymer network with extremely suppressed heterogeneity with a novel molecular design of prepolymers. The homogeneous polymer network, called Tetra-PEG gel, is prepared by AB-type crosslink-coupling of mutually reactive tetra-arm prepolymers. In this study, we examined the models of elastic modulus and fracture energy using Tetra-PEG gel as a model system. We controlled the structural parameters with tuning the molecular weight and concentration of prepolymers, and reaction conversion of the reaction. This series of controlled network structures, for the first time, enabled us to quantitatively examine these models. We performed the stretching and tearing measurements for these polymer gels. As for the elastic modulus, we observed the shift of the models from the phantom to affine network models around the overlapping concentration of prepolymers. As for the fracture energy, we confirmed the validity of the Lake-Thomas model, which is the most popular model predicting fracture energies of elastomers.

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