UMass Amherst Researchers Publish Results of Polymer Structure Study in Current Issue of Science

AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts polymer science and engineering researchers have studied the structure of a specific polymer used in products ranging from soda bottles to safety belts to photographic film.

The results of their research are published in the May 1 issue of the prestigious journal, Science. Faculty member Klaus Schmidt-Rohr and doctoral candidate Weiguo Hu collaborated on the project with Nicholas Zumbulyadis at the Eastman Kodak Co., of Rochester, N.Y.

A polymer is a long chain of molecules, explained Schmidt-Rohr. Many synthetic polymers can be formed in either a crystalline or glassy state, the latter of which often has preferable optical qualities, he said. This particular study helps scientists understand how some polymers "look" in the two states, on a molecular level.

The research, which focused on PET (polyethylene terephthalate) in the glassy state, included use of a novel nuclear magnetic resonance technique. The results can serve as benchmarks for other scientists in academe and industry, who use computers to study the structure of polymers.

The findings explain the slow crystallization of PET, which can present a significant problem in the industrial processing of this polyester, according to Schmidt-Rohr

Schmidt-Rohr did his undergraduate work in physics at the University of Mainz, Germany, and earned a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Mainz and Max-Planck Institute for Polymer Research, in Germany. He has been a faculty member at UMass for three years.