Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair

Bradshaw, Roger D.

Author's Keywords

Creep; Stress relaxation; Physical aging; Glassy polymer films


Polymers--Deterioration; Thin films


Fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composites (PMCs) using high-temperature thermoplastics as the matrix material represent a lightweight design solution for applications above 250°F. This is often required for aircraft structures subjected to supersonic airflows. While thermoplastic matrix PMCs may be successfully designed for such temperatures, they generally exhibit a time-dependent material response which must be well understood for successful design. One important aspect of this response is physical aging, which causes the viscoelastic behavior of amorphous polymers below their glass transition temperature to change with time. While isothermal physical aging has been extensively studied, physical aging during a varying temperature history has received less scrutiny. This dissertation focuses on nonisothermal physical aging of polymers from both experimental and theoretical aspects. The study concentrates on pure polymers rather than fiber-reinforced composites; this step removes several complicating factors to simplify the study. It is anticipated that the findings of this work can then be applied to composite materials applications. The physical aging tests in this work are performed using a dynamic mechanical analyzer (DMA). The viscoelastic response of glassy polymers under various loading and thermal histories are observed as stress-strain data at a series of time points. The first stage of the experimental work involves the characterization of the isothermal physical aging behavior of two advanced thermoplastics. The second stage conducts tests on the same materials with varying thermal histories and with long-term test duration. This forms the basis to assess and modify a nonisothermal physical aging model (KAHR- a te model). Based on the experimental findings, the KAHR- a te model has been revised by new correlations between aging shift factors and volume response; this revised model performed well in predicting the nonisothermal physical aging behavior of glassy polymers. In the work on isothermal physical aging, short-term creep and stress relaxation tests were performed at several temperatures within 15-35°C below the glass transition temperature ( T g ) at various aging times, using the short-term test method established by Struik. Stress and strain levels were such that the materials remained in the linear viscoelastic regime. These curves were then shifted together to determine momentary master curves and shift rates. In order to validate the obtained isothermal physical aging behavior, the results of creep and stress relaxation testing were compared and shown to be consistent with one another using appropriate interconversion of the viscoelastic material functions. Time-temperature superposition of the master curves was also performed. The temperature shift factors and aging shift rates for both PEEK and PPS were consistent for both creep and stress relaxation test results. Nonisothermal physical aging was monitored by sequential short-term creep tests after a series of temperature jumps; the resulting strain histories were analyzed to determine aging shift factors ( a te ) for each of the creep tests. The nonisothermal aging response was predicted using the KAHR- a te model, which combines the KAHR model of volume recovery with a suitable linear relationship between aging shift factors and specific volume. The KAHR- a te model can be utilized to both predict aging response and to determine necessary model parameters from a set of aging shift factor data. For the PEEK and PPS materials considered in the current study, predictions of mechanical response were demonstrated to be in good agreement with the experimental results for several complicated thermal histories. In addition to short-term nonisothermal aging, long-term creep tests under identical thermal conditions were also analyzed. Effective time theory was unitized to predict long-term response under both isothermal and nonisothermal temperature histories. The long-term compliance after a series of temperature changes was predicted by the KAHR- a te model, and the theoretical predictions and experimental data showed good agreement for various thermal histories. Lastly, physical aging behavior of PPS near the glass transition temperature was investigated, in order to observe the mechanical response in the process of the evolution of the material into equilibrium. At several temperatures near T g , the time need to reach equilibrium were determined by the creep test results at various aging times. In addition to isothermal physical aging, mechanical shift factors in the period of approaching equilibrium at a common temperature after temperature up-jumps and down-jumps are monitored from creep tests; prior to these temperature jumps, the materials were aged to reach equilibrium states. From these tests, asymmetry of approaching equilibrium phenomenon in ate was observed, which is first-time reported in the literature. This finding shows the similarity between the thermodynamic and mechanical properties during structural relaxation. This work will lead to improved understanding of the viscoelastic behavior of glassy polymers, which is important for better understanding and design of PMCs in elevated temperature applications. With the above findings, this dissertation deals with nonisothermal physical aging of glassy polymers, including both experimental characterization and constructing a framework for predictions of mechanical behavior of polymeric materials under complicated thermal conditions.