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D.A. Schiraldi, M.L. Occelli, S.A.C. Gould. 2001. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) study of poly(ethylene terephthalate-co-4, 4'-bibenzoate): A polymer of intermediate structure. J. Appl. Polymer Sci. 82(11): 2616-2623. Full Article

An atomic force microscope (AFM) operating in both tapping and contact modes was used to study the surface topography and the molecular organization of a molded flexural test bar prepared from a poly(ethylene terephthalate-co-4,4'-bibenzoate) copolymer containing a terephthalate:4,4-bibenzoate molar ratio of 45:55 (PETBB-55). Micrometer-scale (15 15 m) contact-mode AFM images revealed that the PETBB surface contains a deep indentation that forms trenches that extend over the entire surface examined. In addition, the surface may appear as an overlay of fibrils having different orientation. At greater magnification (1 1 m), it is possible to observe the existence of micropores. These results were also observed in images obtained while operating the AFM in the tapping mode. The side of the part is more homogeneous and ordered than is its top surface. It has the appearance of a stacked lamellar structure in which missing fibrils can originate cracks 0.5-m wide. Fine surface details were observed in nanometer-scale images, showing the presence of chains of white spots that could represent molecules or a cluster of molecules. These chains can form domains in which they are almost parallel to each other and have a preferred orientation; this structural organization was generated without any orientation other than that produced during a mold flow. Alternatively, chain lengths are interrupted and white spots form, distorted by easily recognizable hexagonal arrangements. The degree of lamellar order observed in the side of the bar, the area of greatest flow orientation in the part, was not been observed for the PET homopolymer in the past and bears some resemblance to previously imaged liquid crystalline polyester (LCP) structures. Combined with some previously reported LCP-like mechanical properties, we propose that this PETBB copolymer is, in fact, a frustrated LCP, one that with some driving force could be converted to liquid crystallinity.

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