Self-Consistent Theory for Structural Relaxation, Dynamic Bond Exchange Times, and the Glass Transition in Polymeric Vitrimers

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We formulate a statistical mechanical theory for how dynamic bond exchange influences the activated hopping-driven relaxation of Kuhn segments in dynamically cross-linked networks or vitrimers over a wide range of temperatures and cross-link densities. The key new methodological aspect is to address in a self-consistent manner the dynamic consequences of bond exchange on the Kuhn segmental alpha relaxation, and vice versa. The predicted temperature dependence of the segmental alpha time of vitrimers at high temperatures remains the same as that of permanent networks, but at lower temperatures, a significant acceleration of relaxation occurs due to bond exchanges. From a mechanistic perspective, the vitrimer local cage barrier is very weakly affected by bond exchange, while the collective elastic barrier contribution decreases significantly in the deeply supercooled regime. The vitrimer glass transition temperature is predicted to grow linearly with the square root of the cross-link density, as previously found for permanent networks. Material-specific chemical effects such as cross-linker size relative to that of the normal Kuhn segment or special attraction of a cross-linker with polymers are crudely considered based on model calculations. The theory is quantitatively applied to recent experiments on dry ethylene vitrimers. Good agreements are found including that the bond exchange time follows an Arrhenius law at high enough temperatures but upward non-Arrhenius deviations emerge in the deeply supercooled regime, and a collapsed master curve of the segment alpha time exists over a wide range of cross-link densities and temperatures. Possible extensions to treat dynamic heterogeneity effects and penetrant transport in vitrimers are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3242-3257
Number of pages16
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 9 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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