Investigations into the effects of chain-length-dependent termination and propagation on the kinetics of radical polymerisation
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Radical polymerisation (RP) has for many years been an industrially important process, and the kinetics of the process remains an active area of research. As polymerisation proceeds, converting monomer (small molecules) into polymer (long chain molecules), chemical species of a variety of chain lengths are produced. Recent work has pointed toward the fact that rate coefficients for polymerisation reactions (specifically, termination and propagation) are often dependent on the chain-length of the reacting species. The focus of this thesis is to study the effects of chain-length-dependent reactions on the kinetics of RP, by using computer-based modeling and comparing the results of such modeling with experimental data. This enables the understanding of otherwise inexplicable trends and the building of more mechanistically detailed and accurate models for RP kinetics. In Chapter 2, a new model for termination is developed, connecting observations and analyses of termination kinetics at short chain lengths (particularly small molecule studies) with other observations and analyses at long chain lengths (conventional RP kinetics studies) in order to construct a model for termination that is shown to be capable of coherently describing termination kinetics at any chain length. In Chapter 3, this new model for termination is tested at short chain lengths on polymerisations with large quantities of added chain transfer agent. With the inclusion of chain-length-dependent propagation in the model, the model for termination is validated. Chapter 4 is aimed at extending an existing reduced-variable, compact, 'universal' description of steady-state RP kinetics by incorporating all known chain-length dependent reactivities. This both increases computational efficiency over other approaches and provides easily evaluated, approximate analytical expressions for RP kinetics. This foundational theory is applied in Chapter 5 to reach a deeper understanding of the behaviour of the model, and show how experimental data may readily be analysed to extract information about chain-length-dependent termination kinetics. In Chapter 6, the effect of chain-length dependent reactivities on the important technique of single-pulse pulsed-laser polymerisation is investigated, and this technique is validated as the best experimental method for investigation of termination kinetics. In general, a central result of this thesis is that chain-length-dependent reactivities, when acknowledged and properly incorporated into models, can explain many phenomena in RP kinetics which otherwise seem difficult to account for. No exceptions to this principle have been found.