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Origin of contrast effects in the electron microscopy of polymers

Part 2: Polyethylene spherulites

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Abstract

Self-supported thin spherulitic films of polyethylene change their form dramatically during observation in the transmission electron microscope. Crystalline diffraction contrast disappears, then details of the radiating fibrils become visible. The circumferential bands of a banded spherulite are originally visible in the diffraction contrast, and after this has faded they reappear with stronger contrast, but reversed. At the same time each spherulite in the originally flat specimen becomes conical in shape. The same topographical changes are observed in the scanning electron microscope.

All the effects can be explained by assuming that the crystalline sub-units of the spherulites deform in the electron beam in the same way as single crystals do. The anisotropic deformation of polyethylene single crystals in the electron microscope was described in Part 1 of this paper [1].

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Grubb, D.T., Keller, A. Origin of contrast effects in the electron microscopy of polymers. J Mater Sci 7, 822–835 (1972). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00549911

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Keywords

  • Polymer
  • Microscopy
  • Electron Microscope
  • Scanning Electron Microscope
  • Transmission Electron Microscope