Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Glass Transition


Have you ever left a plastic bucket or some other plastic object outside during the winter, and found that it cracks or breaks more easily than it would in the summer time? What you experienced was the phenomenon known as the glass transition. This transition is something that only happens to polymers, and is one of the things that make polymers unique. The glass transition is pretty much what it sounds like. There is a certain temperature(different for each polymer) called the glass transition temperature, or Tg for short. When the polymer is cooled below this temperature, it becomes hard and brittle, like glass. Some polymers are used above their glass transition temperatures, and some are used below. Hard plastics like polystyrene and poly(methyl methacrylate), are used below their glass transition temperatures; that is in their glassy state. Their Tg's are well above room temperature, both at around 100 oC. 

Amorphous and Crystalline Polymers:

We have to make something clear at this point. The glass transition is not the same thing as melting. Melting is a transition which occurs in crystalline polymers. Melting happens when the polymer chains fall out of their crystal structures, and become a disordered liquid. The glass transition is a transition which happens to amorphous polymers; that is, polymers whose chains are not arranged in ordered crystals, but are just strewn around in any old fashion, even though they are in the solid state.

But even crystalline polymers will have a some amorphous portion. This portion usually makes up 40-70% of the polymer sample. This is why the same sample of a polymer can have both a glass transition temperature and a melting temperature. But you should know that the amorphous portion undergoes the glass transition only, and the crystalline portion undergoes melting only.

On cooling, rubber undergoes a liquid-glass transition, which has also been called a rubber-glass transition. For example, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was caused by rubber O-rings that were being used well below their glass transition temperature on an unusually cold Florida morning, and thus could not flex adequately to form proper seals between sections of the two solid-fuel rocket boosters.

Note:  If anyone interested in theoritical calculation of Tg, please email me.  I will send you Tg calculator excel file.