Math & Engineering

blog #34 A Universal Tribute to polymers. My projected dream jan 21st 2019.pdf

Plastics are synthetic polymers and have a bad, very bad aura these days, triggering instant sour reactions, even anger as soon as they are mentioned in discussions. And the concerns are well deserved, considering the revolting piles of empty bottles
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  A UNIVERSAL TRIBUTE TO POLYMERS: MY PROJECTED DREAM “Can you draw me a macromolecule?” said the Petit Prince of all dreamers Why a tribute to polymers when plastics (synthetic polymers) are the worldwide and well deserved subjects of immediate concern for their environmental impact for oceans, animals and even human beings?. The images of the floating piles of plastic films and bottles in areas of the pacific as large as France are revolting! The impact this has for the image of the plastic industry is catastrophic. I have devoted 40 years of my thoughts and research to polymers and their improvements, yet I want to shout out loud:  shame on this plastic industry if they don’t address and clean up their mess, now! Why then a tribute to polymers after this strong accusation? Polymers are ancient materials if you consider their biological presence in life forms as DNA macromolecules. Their unsophisticated cousins, the synthetic polymers (polyethylene, polystyrene, plexiglass, polyvinyl chloride etc.) are not even 100 years old and they are the villains responsible for the environmental disaster. Understanding synthetic polymer properties has not been easy: ask someone to tell you about the fights of Staudinger, Flory or de Gennes, our only 3 Nobel laureates, to convince their peers; and it is still a big challenge. I should know since I advocate in blogs, papers, lectures and books the challenges to the existing models. I am really convinced that we have not used the correct theoretical background to understand the properties of polymers: their flow characteristics, their visco-elasticity, their thermal properties and their fundamental transitions. As I will explain, the road to redemption for polymers and plastics involves a fresh new look at the background concepts (the statistics of their interactions). This new look may lead to a better understanding of materials in general, of the interactions between atomic or molecular objects in particular, and, well, of physics in general, you know, the relationship between space, time and matter. There was a good reason for not using the correct theoretical background to explain polymer physics: it still needed to be invented! The new statistical approach of interactions (the Grain-Field Statistics), which I have formulated may fit the job (I am working nonstop at proving it by applying the model to various aspects of polymeric behavior: linear and non-linear visco-elasticity, crystallization from the melt, relaxation behavior etc.). Yet, this new statistics needs to be widely exposed, explained, debated, diffused, improved, modified and only then may it serve as a source of new ideas in theoretical physics. Polymer physics, the physics of macromolecules, understandably followed the tracks of the physics of small molecules, using the same statistical mechanical concepts tweaked for the macromolecular size. This  led to the elaboration of the molecular dynamic models that we know of by Rouse, de Gennes, Doi and Edwards, and their improvements by many other brilliant scientists, too many to be quoted here. Are these praised models correctly describing reality or not? That is the only question that matters in science, a question that differentiates this discipline from art and philosophy. What I have been claiming for the last 8 years (see the previous 33 posts) is that the molecular dynamic models of polymer physics are not good enough, hence they should be abandoned! If you take the time and carefully conduct your own investigation, being thorough while keeping an open mind, you will probably agree with me: a new interpretation of the behavior of polymers is inevitable. We need a new statistical formulation of the interactions in macromolecular physics that could be shown to explain their physical behavior, in the liquid, solid and rubbery states. Do I mean a new statistics that applies to the particular case of interacting macromolecules, say the way we understand small molecules by the Boltzmann’s statistics ? Yes, indeed, something like the Boltzmann’s statist ics, yet rewritten to describe the case of covalently bonded mers forming a collective system of interactions. In essence, this is the statistics of interactions itself which is re-invented because of the macromolecular aspect; it is not derived nor adapted from the statistics of the small molecules. You probably know of the Fable of Jean de la Fontaine “Perrette et le pot à lait (Perrete and the milk jug) ” where she starts  to dream of what she could do with the money of the fresh milk she is carrying on her head to the market to sell it, spilling it while dreaming and not paying attention, and loosing it all. Well, I am still milking the cow (polymer physics), and paying attention, so there is no spill or limited spill possible, but I dream. I dream of the possible implications of this new physics of interactions to other fields than polymers, I dream of testing this statistical model using other particles in interactions. In fact, I dream that a general theory of interactions that was first invented to describe polymer science could be retrofitted to small molecules, to particles, to the propagation of light, to a new understanding of the Maxwell’s equation s, to a dual-split understanding of time and space and a cross-dual split understanding of time-space and matter. The paternity to a new birth of things would be polymers, even more specifically “synthetic polymers”: their road to redemption , no doubt!   But, of course, on this Martin Luther King’s day, it was just a dream!   Let’s use our imagination and new knowledge to clean up the planet first. A visionary approach to plastic recycling to save the oceans: plastic-battery-storage powders (PBS). A recent program on “ Plastic Everywhere! Histories of Wastes ”, broadcasted on April 3 rd  2018, alerts on the impact of plastics on the environment, especially in polluting oceans and disturbing the life of fishes, whales etc. Plastics should not become waste just after been used. All plastics which have entanglements, thus all used and virgin plastics created by the industry, everywhere in the world, should be viewed as a new resource, not waste that pollute the environment. The plastic industry has a mission to clean-up the mess created by the short life of their product, and this visionary technology could be part of the solution.   The current established understanding of polymer physics is holding back new innovation in the plastic industry. All the properties that make polymers useful materials are due to their ability to flow in molds and be mechanically strong: this is entirely due to the interactions between the macromolecules, in particular to their entanglement. The current understanding of entanglement is flawed: it is based on the description of the properties of a single chain embedded in a sea of average interaction from the other chains that disturbs its properties, for instance its ability to deform to adapt to a stress field. The statistics is treated from a pure macromolecular perspective, like in the case of rubber extensibility. The macromolecules are, indeed, absolutely essential to determine the properties of polymers, in particular why they entangle, but, in our view, the current established paradigm to understand flow and be able to innovate is based on the wrong definition of the statistical system defining the interactions, thus the wrong model of viscosity. This is the reason the current theories struggle explaining non-linear viscoelasticity which concerns the flow of melts at high rate of production, practiced in the industry, and why they cannot understand “sustained orientation” (aka “di sentanglement), a new property I have observed which has been validated by others. In fact, the challenge to understand sustained-orientation has triggered my theoretical new developments leading to the Grain-Field Statistics and its potential  application-derived by simulation- to manufacture  “plastic -battery storage ”   new materials out of recycled plastics. The enthalpy increase of compressed air is well known, it is directly proportional to the pressure increase. So air is a vehicle for storing enthalpic energy. But one needs the resistance of the tank walls to keep the volume constant to maintain the enthalpy into its non-equilibrium state. A full tank of compressed air is like a battery, in that sense, whose return to equilibrium upon decompression can drive rotating electromagnets into producing electrical current. Plastics have an entanglement network that can be manipulated to become the tank walls in order to store energy. The energy to be stored must be applied in such a way as to modify the enthalpy of the interactive units, and, simultaneously, collectively organize the network of the interactions to undergo sustained-orientation. In operating this way, the plastic does not return instantaneously, elastically, to its equilibrium state, hence the release of the stored energy can be controlled, creating a battery effect. The treated melt that has created a new network of entanglement under sustained-orientation condition, is quickly cooled and transformed into a fine powder. This is the same process that was used to freeze the sustained-orientation of disentangled network into micro-pellets, making them hold their non-equilibrium state at room temperature. At this stage, the powder is stable at room temperature and can be stored in bags, like normal powders, for very long times, because of the infinitely slow kinetics of relaxation at room temperature. This powder is the potential battery material (“clean fuel”)  to produce energy by thermal activation. The powder can be poured into the throat of an extruder and heated there above a certain temperature, the temperature of activation, which corresponds to the start of the instability of the sustained-oriented boosted re-entangled network. The release of the enthalpy stored in the bonds occurs as the system returns to its thermodynamic entanglement network state. This stage, like for a compressed gas which is decompressed, will enable the turning of helicoidally grooved shafts, pushing forward the molten plastic which is disentangling as it processes through. The rotation of the shaft can activate electromagnets and create a current, acting like a battery with no chemical release.
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