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Theory of polymer breaking under tension

Puthur, Rosabella and Sebastian, KL (2002) Theory of polymer breaking under tension. In: Physical Review B: Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, 66 (2). 024304 .

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Official URL: http://prb.aps.org/abstract/PRB/v66/i2/e024304


We consider the breaking of a polymer molecule which is fixed at one end and is acted upon by a force at the other. The polymer is assumed to be a linear chain joined together by bonds which satisfy the Morse potential. The applied force is found to modify the Morse potential so that the minimum becomes metastable. Breaking is just the decay of this metastable bond, by causing it to go over the barrier. Increasing the force causes the potential to become more and more distorted and eventually leads to the disappearance of the barrier. The limiting force at which the barrier disappears is D(e)a/2,D-e with a the parameters characterizing the Morse potential. The rate of breaking is first calculated using multidimensional quantum transition state theory. We use the harmonic approximation to account for vibrations of all the units. It includes tunneling contributions to the rate, but is valid only above a certain critical temperature. It is possible to get an analytical expression for the rate of breaking. We have calculated the rate of breaking for a model, which mimics polyethylene. First we calculate the rate of breaking of a single bond, without worrying about the other bonds. Inclusion of other bonds under the harmonic approximation is found to lower this rate by at the most one order of magnitude. Quantum effects are found to increase the rate of breaking and are significant only at temperatures less than 150 K. At 300 K, the calculations predict a bond in polyethylene to have a lifetime of only seconds at a force which is only half the limiting force. Calculations were also done using the Lennard-Jones potential. The results for Lennard-Jones and Morse potentials were rather different, due to the different long-range behaviors of the two potentials. A calculation including friction was carried out, at the classical level, by assuming that each atom of the chain is coupled to its own collection of harmonic oscillators. Comparison of the results with the simulations of Oliveira and Taylor [J. Chem. Phys. 101, 10 118 (1994)] showed the rate to be two to three orders of magnitude higher. As a possible explanation of discrepancy, we consider the translational motion of the ends of the broken chains. Using a continuum approximation for the chain, we find that in the absence of friction, the rate of the process can be limited by the rate at which the two broken ends separate from one another and the lowering of the rate is at the most a factor of 2, for the parameters used in the simulation (for polyethylene). In the presence of friction, we find that the rate can be lowered by one to two orders of magnitude, making our results to be in reasonable agreement with the simulations.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to The American Physical Society.
Department/Centre: Division of Chemical Sciences > Inorganic & Physical Chemistry
Depositing User: Ms V Mangala
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2011 07:00
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2011 07:00
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/39480

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