Insights into Polymer Crystallization from In-situ Atomic Force Microscopy
In-situ observation of polymer crystallization with atomic force microscopy is rapidly becoming a standard method, providing an increasing wealth of real-space information on the growth process at the molecular scale. Here, in-situ studies of dendritic thin film growth are extended to polyethylene, and the conditions for the onset of flat-on crystal growth and dendritic growth are given. Crystallization of oriented films is studied to provide accurate measurements of lamellar growth rates and their spatial and temporal variation. The use of AFM as a tool for the observation of intermediate phases is discussed in light of recent observations on model systems, and it is concluded that AFM under standard conditions is unlikely to discern between two crystal-like phases, but should discern between two meltlike phases. Finally, the recent development of rapid scanning AFM (VideoAFM™) is outlined, and an application which exemplifies the necessity of such high speed techniques is given.
KeywordsAtomic Force Microscopy Polyethylene Oxide Phase Image Dendritic Growth Polymer Crystallization
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