Thermal conductivity of amorphous polymers and its dependence on molecular weight

A Kiessling and DN Simavilla and GG Vogiatzis and DC Venerus, POLYMER, 228, 123881 (2021).

DOI: 10.1016/j.polymer.2021.123881

Thermal conductivity is an important transport property governing the performance of polymers in nonisothermal conditions. Nevertheless, its dependence on molecular weight M has not been the subject of as much attention as other properties of polymeric materials. We determine the thermal conductivity of polystyrene and polyisobutylene for a wide range of molecular weight by measuring the density, heat capacity and thermal diffusivity. Using coarse-graining and reverse mapping methods, we were able to produce molecular melts to study the thermal conductivity of polystyrene using molecular dynamics simulations over a similar range of molecular weight. We find satisfactory agreement between the experimental and simulation results. However, all of our results show that thermal conductivity depends only slightly on molecular weight up the entanglement limit and it is independent thereafter. Our results put into question the few previous experimental studies on this topic by showing that the previously accepted proportionality to root M Mv does not hold. Our findings could have significant implications for the understanding of complex phenomena such as anisotropic thermal conductivity in polymers subjected to flow.

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