2020 Introduction to Polymer Physical Chemistry

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Graduate major in Chemical Science and Engineering
Furuya Hidemine  Tokita Masatoshi 
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Course description and aims

This course enables students to understand how the unique properties of polymers which are distinguishable from those of small molecules are derived from their chain-like structure and to acquire fundamentals of the characterization procedures on the basis of the essential concepts on polymers. Thermodynamic treatments are also given for solution systems where interactions with solvents are essential for determining polymers' structures and properties.
Furthermore, this course covers fundamentals of crystal and hierarchical structure formed in the solid state of typical polymer materials, transition behavior, cryastallization phenomenon. Physical and chemical basis of mechanical, thermal, electric, and optical properties observed for polymers are also provided.
Understanding their unique structure is critically important for students to grasp "What are polymers?" This is based on the fact that the specific properties of common linear polymers, which are made of many small components, are derived from unique intra- and inter-molecular interactions. In solution systems, matters are more complicated because of the additional interactions with solvents, which may be fully elucidated with rather simple thermodynamic treatments. Thus, students will understand how polymers assume their structure to reveal their properties in solution and what interactions are involved therein, by referring to relevant theoretical treatments.
Understanding of characteristic solid structures and properties is essential when polymer molecules are used as materials. Students will have an understanding of how to evaluate polymer structures formed in the solid state. And students will have an understanding how to appear mechanical, thermal, electric, and optical properties for assembles to polymer molecules and related to their structures.
For students in other graduate majors, this course provides the opportunity to learn about basic polymer structures and properties.

Student learning outcomes

This course is intended to enable students who have no backgrounds in polymer science to acquire fundamental knowledge of structures and properties within polymer physics. By the end of this course, students will be able to:
1) Explain "what is unique about polymers?"
2) Explain the primary structures.
3) Explain how polymer chain expansion is correlated with the excluded volume effect.
4) Explain the meaning of the Flory-Huggins theory.
5) Explain the concept of average molecular weight and the principles of the measurements.
6) Explain how solution properties depend on concentration.
7) Explain hierarchical structure of polymer crystals.
8) Explain crystal structures and structure transition of typical polymers.
9) Explain properties of polymer crystals and crystallization behaviors.
10) Explain melting behavior and glass transition.
11) Explain fundamentals and phenomenon of thermal, mechanical, electrical, and optical properties.


primary structure, configuration, conformation, average molecular weight (distribution), radius of gyration, excluded volume (effect), Flory-Huggins theory, θtemperature, χparameter, light scattering, intrinsic viscosity, hierarchical structure, lamellae, spherulites, glass transition, melting, piezoelectricity, dielectric property, birefringence, polymer crystal

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

The classes are conducted by referring to the designated textbook, and important concepts and terms are mainly explained for students who are required to prepare for the relevant lesson. At the end of each class, a 15 minute examination will be given.

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 What are polymers? (The historical identification process and the establishment of the polymer concept) and primary structure and molecular weight of polymers  ※ Origin of the uniqueness of polymers, variation of polymers, connection patterns of monomers, branching and network structures How polymers are distinguished from small molecules? Explain primary structure and stereoregularity.
Class 2 Intrinsic properties of polymer chain - Chain models and excluded volume effects -  ※Configuration and conformation, Ideal chain and real chain How is the chain expansion correlated with the excluded volume effect?
Class 3 Characteristics of polymer solution  ※Flory-Huggins theory, Phase equilibrium, Relation to average molecular weights Explain mixing of polymers with solvents in terms of thermodynamics. Explain the respective principles for measurements of average molecular weights.
Class 4 Solid state strcuture of polymers - Fundamentals, hierarchial structure of assembles, and phase transition behavior Explain hierarchial structure of polymer crystals. Explain crystal structures and strcucture transition of typical polymers.
Class 5 Properties of polymer crystals and crystallization phenomenon Explain mechanical properties of polymer crystals and crystallization behavior.
Class 6 Thermal and mechanical properties of polymers Explain meltin behavior and glass transition of polymers. Explain rheology of polymers.
Class 7 Electric and optical properties of polymers - Dielectric properties, piezoelectricity, conductivity, refractive index, and birefringence Explain fundamental and phenomenon of electric and optical properties.
Class 8 Examination for review of some key points + term-end test. Evaluate achievement for classes.

Out-of-Class Study Time (Preparation and Review)

To enhance effective learning, students are encouraged to spend approximately 100 minutes preparing for class and another 100 minutes reviewing class content afterwards (including assignments) for each class.
They should do so by referring to textbooks and other course material.


Fundamental polymer science (Tokyo Kagaku Dojin) ISBN978-4-8079-0635-2, Chapter 1-5(Japanese), G.R.Strobl"The Physics of Polymers" (Springer), R. J. Young and P. A. Lovell "Introduction to Polymers" Third Edition (CRC Press)

Reference books, course materials, etc.

Modern physics "Polymer Physics-phase transition dynamics-"(Iwanami) Chapter 2 (Japanese), Hiromi Kitano et al., Chemistry of Polymers, Sankyou syuppan, ISBN978-4-7827-0544-5 (ln Japanese)

Assessment criteria and methods

Understanding of polymer structures and properties will be assessed.
15-minute examinations (30%) + final examination (70%)

Related courses

  • CAP.P421 : Special Lecture on Characterization of Polymer Structures and Properties
  • CAP.P422 : Advanced Polymer Properties
  • CAP.P201 : Polymer Science
  • CAP.P221 : Polymer Physics I (Polymer Solutions)
  • CAP.P222 : Polymer Physics II (Solid Structures)
  • CAP.P322 : Polymer Physics IV (Physical Properties)

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

Students who have taken 200 and 300 level classes on polymer physics and those who have a background in polymer science may not take this course.

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