• When is Mechanical Polymer Characterisation Used?

Measurement and Testing

When is Mechanical Polymer Characterisation Used?

Jul 07 2022

When it comes to assessing the performance of polymer materials, properties such as strength, elasticity and molecular weight are front of mind. Viscoelasticity is important as it describes the ability of a material to show both viscous and elastic properties during deformation. Anisotropy, a trait that allows a material to take on different properties along different axes, is another important polymer characterisation parameter.

All of the above are classed as mechanical properties and play an important role in product research and development.

What influences the mechanical properties of polymers?

The mechanical properties of polymers are determined by the unique interactions that take place between polymer chains. The ability of these chains to stretch and realign when placed under stress also affects mechanical properties such as strength and elasticity.

Now we know more about how the mechanical properties of polymers are determined, let’s take a look at why these parameters matter.

Designing high-performance materials

From skyscrapers to spaceships, high-performance polymer materials offer the incredible strength and durability needed to withstand extreme environments. Mechanical polymer characterisation is used to design remarkable materials like ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE).

The polymer boasts exceptional mechanical properties, including one of the best impact strength ratings of any thermoplastic currently on the market. This has established UHMWPE as a coveted polymer material for a wide range of applications, including yacht rigging, automotive winch equipment, parachute suspension lines and bullet-proof vests. UHMWPE is also used to build marine berthing structures such as jetties, pontoons and quay walls.

Mechanical polymer characterisation in the life sciences sector

It’s not just industries like building, construction and oil and gas that rely on mechanical polymer analysis techniques. In an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Biomaterialia, the authors explain how mechanical polymer characterisation techniques are used to design next-generation biomaterials to repair degenerated intervertebral discs.

“Biomaterials for regeneration of the intervertebral disc must meet complex requirements conforming to biological, mechanical and clinical demands,” write the authors. They refer to best-practice test protocols such as the ASTM D2990-17 Standard Test Methods for Tensile, Compressive, and Flexural Creep and Creep-Rupture of Plastics designed to assess performance under certain environmental conditions.

They conclude that analysing the mechanical properties of biomaterials can help improve the performance of materials used to regenerate the intervertebral disc and restore the nucleus pulposus (NP). “As more studies are published, working towards a more unified set of characterisation experiments will allow for more streamlined identification of viable NP restoration and regeneration biomaterials as well as strategies for testing them in a clinical setting,” reads the conclusion.

Other techniques for polymer analysis

Mechanical Polymer Characterisation is one of many techniques used to analyse polymer materials. Find out more about other methods, including thermal analysis techniques like Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and spectroscopic methods such as Near-Infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy in our in-depth guide, ‘Polymer Characterisation - Techniques, Types & Properties’.

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