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Birefringence in a film of polyethylene

By University of Cambridge DoITPoMS and University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy J A Curran


The colours in the image are the result of birefringence and relate to the residual stress in the film. The colour is generally uniform (with some contrast where an additional thickness of film exists or where wrinkling has resulted in a different apparent thickness). This is indicative of both a uniform film thickness and of the uniformity of the drawing process used to make the film. In the region of the tear, however, the colours indicate strain-induced orientation: because the material is above the glass transition temperature of PE (-30 °C) chain sliding occurs readily under and applied stress and the molecules become aligned along the tensile axis. The strain is permanent and does not relax when the stress is removed. However, if the material were annealed at ~100 °C, it would relax towards its original configuration, and uniform colour would again be observed.

Topics: alignment, birefringence, extrusion, film, polyethylene (pe), polymer, polythene, doitpoms, university of cambridge, micrograph, corematerials, ukoer, Engineering, H000
Publisher: University of Cambridge
Year: 2010
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Provided by: Jorum Open
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