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The gel point and network formation – theory and experiment


Gel points, accounting for intramolecular reaction, are predicted using Ahmed-Rolfes-Stepto (ARS) theory. They are compared with experimental gel points for polyester (PES)-forming, polyurethane (PU)-forming and poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) polymerisations. The PES and PU polymerisations were from stoichiometric reaction mixtures at different initial dilutions and the PDMS ones were from critical-ratio experiments at different fixed dilutions of one reactant. The ARS predictions use realistic chain statistics to define intramolecular reaction probabilities and employ no arbitrary parameters. Universal plots of excess reaction at gelation versus ring-forming parameter are devised to enable the experimental data and theoretical predictions to be compared critically. Significant deviations between experiment and theory are found for the PU systems and the PDMS systems with higher molar-mass reactants. However, ARS theory fits well the results for the PES systems and the PDMS systems having lower molar-mass reactants. Possible reasons for these differences in behaviour are discussed in terms of the PU-forming reaction mechanism and the effects of entanglements in PDMS. Whilst ARS theory provides a good basis for gel-point predictions and can be applied to many types of polymerisation, more experimental systems at different initial dilutions and ratios of reactants still need to be studied and the various methods used for detecting gel points still need to be compared to enable a definitive assessment of its performance to be made.

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Correspondence to R.F.T. Stepto.

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Cail, J., Stepto, R. The gel point and network formation – theory and experiment. Polym. Bull. 58, 15–25 (2007).

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  • PDMS
  • High Molar Mass
  • Hexamethylene Diisocyanate
  • Intramolecular Reaction
  • Initial Dilution