NoSmall-angle neutron scattering measurements on a series of monodisperse linear entangled polystyrene melts in nonlinear flow through an abrupt 4:1 contraction have been made. Clear signatures of melt deformation and subsequent relaxation can be observed in the scattering patterns, which were taken along the centerline. These data are compared with the predictions of a recently derived molecular theory. Two levels of molecular theory are used: a detailed equation describing the evolution of molecular structure over all length scales relevant to the scattering data and a simplified version of the model, which is suitable for finite element computations. The velocity field for the complex melt flow is computed using the simplified model and scattering predictions are made by feeding these flow histories into the detailed model. The modeling quantitatively captures the full scattering intensity patterns over a broad range of data with independent variation of position within the contraction geometry, bulk flow rate and melt molecular weight. The study provides a strong, quantitative validation of current theoretical ideas concerning the microscopic dynamics of entangled polymers which builds upon existing comparisons with nonlinear mechanical stress data. Furthermore, we are able to confirm the appreciable length scale dependence of relaxation in polymer melts and highlight some wider implications of this phenomenon
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