Advanced Materials

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Polymers and Composites


At the core of ORNL’s Advanced Materials R&D Portfolio is the development of new materials that have potential end-use in a broad range of current and future DOE missions such as energy conversion and storage. Polymer and composites researchers at ORNL address the need for new and enhanced materials with world-class expertise in polymer synthesis, composite manufacturing technologies, and physical properties characterization.

The synthetic expertise at ORNL allows for the synthesis of a wide range of polymers and composite materials. Our expertise in anionic, controlled radical, and ring-opening polymerization techniques allows for the synthesis of polymers and copolymers with complex architectures and composition. Particular emphasis has been placed on the preparation of selectively deuterated monomers and polymers that enable neutron scattering studies to understand structure and dynamics. Our synthetic expertise also extends to the advanced processing of polymer composites and nanocomposites, where we prepare novel crosslinked polymer nanoparticles with well-defined size, shape, and composition; introduce new material forms (including unique material combinations); and develop innovative methods in manufacturing technologies supported by extensive computational expertise and resources.

A full suite of characterization techniques is brought to bear on the polymers and composite materials described above to understand morphology, dynamics and mechanical properties. With regards to morphology, techniques such as neutron scattering and X-ray, optical microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy are applied to polymeric materials. The study of dynamics of polymeric materials over an extremely wide time, frequency, pressure, and temperature range using neutron scattering, light scattering, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, dielectric spectroscopy, and rheology is also part of our core capabilities. Finally, mechanical testing capabilities include fracture testing, fatigue/crack growth, and creep.

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