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Thomas, Edwin (Ned), 3.063 Polymer Physics, Spring 2007. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 07 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Polymer Physics

Spring 2007

Block copolymers of various compositions form BCC, hexagonal cylindrical, double gyroid, double diamond, and lamellar morphologies.

The various morphologies formed by self-assembling block copolymers can be used in a range of optical, magnetic, and electronic applications. (Figure by MIT OCW.)

Course Description

This course presents the mechanical, optical, and transport properties of polymers with respect to the underlying physics and physical chemistry of polymers in melt, solution, and solid state. Topics include conformation and molecular dimensions of polymer chains in solutions, melts, blends, and block copolymers; an examination of the structure of glassy, crystalline, and rubbery elastic states of polymers; thermodynamics of polymer solutions, blends, crystallization; liquid crystallinity, microphase separation, and self-assembled organic-inorganic nanocomposites. Case studies include relationships between structure and function in technologically important polymeric systems.



There is no required textbook for this course. A suggested reference is:

 Young, R. J., and P. A. Lovell. Introduction to Polymers. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780748757404.


Students must complete and hand in five problem sets during the term.

Students are also required to write a substantial essay on an area concerning the structure, processing, and physical properties of polymers. A two page detailed outline is due on Lec #13 and the paper is due seven days after Lec #23.


There will be two in-class exams.


Five problem sets 20%
Two exams 50%
Essay - outline 5%
Essay - final 15%
Attendance and participation 10%


1 Introduction; hard vs. soft solids; polymerization  
2 Chains; thermodynamics of polymer solutions  
3 Thermodynamics (cont.): Mean field; Flory Huggins and lattice theory; entropy and enthalpy of mixing; phase diagrams  
4 Polymer blends; viscosity; osmometry Problem set 1 due
5 Osmometry (cont.); SEC (size exclusion chromatography) and GPC (gel permeation chromatography)  
6 Scattering; Zimm plots  
7 Glass transition temperature Tg  
8 Diffusion of polymers; reptation; elasticity Problem set 2 due
9 Gels; Flory-Rehner theory  
10 Self organization  
  Exam I  
11 Intermaterial dividing surface (IMDS); polymer-based photonics  
12 Photonic crystals  
13 Influence of chain architecture on microdomain characteristics  
14 Block copolymer-homopolymer blends  
15 Hierarchically ordered BCP-nanoparticle composites  
16 Top down meets bottom up Problem set 3 due
17 Chain folding; polyethylene and nylon; spherulites  
18 Mechanical properties; crazing; microframes and millitrusses  
  Exam II Problem set 4 due
19 Mechanical properties (cont.)  
20 Single wall and multi-wall nanotubes (SWNT, MWNT)  
21 Electronic polymers  
22 Polymer conductives; polypyrrole chains; optical interactions Problem set 5 due
23 Wrap-up and review Project report due   Tell A Friend