Chain folding produces a multilayered morphology in a precise polymer: Simulations and experiments

E. B. Trigg, M. J. Stevens, K. I. Winey*, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 139, 3747-3755, 2017.

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.6b12817



Precise control over polymer architecture unlocks the potential for engineered self-assembled crystal structures with useful features on the nanometer length scale. Here we elucidate the structure of the ordered phase of a semicrystalline, functional polyethylene having a precise linear architecture, namely, pendant carboxylic acid groups precisely every 21st backbone carbon atom. By comparing the results of atomistic molecular dynamics simulations with experimental X-ray scattering and Raman spectroscopy data, we find that the polymer chains are folded in a hairpin manner near each carboxylic acid group, giving rise to multiple embedded layers of functional groups that have an interlayer distance of 2.5 nm. This is in contrast to other precise polyethylenes, where the chains are mostly trans within the crystals. Such layers could act as two-dimensional pathways for ionic or molecular transport given an appropriate choice of functional group.