A computational study of phase separation in polymer solutions under a concentration gradient
thesisposted on 24.05.2021, 10:36 by Baitao Jiang
Anisotropic porous polymeric materials fabricated from the phase separation method via spinodal decomposition are used in various practical engineering applications. Examples include anisotropic porous polymeric membranes for separation processes and holographic polymer dispersed liquid crystal films for electro-optical devices. We have studied numerically the formation of anisotropic porous polymeric materials by imposing an initial linear concentration gradient across a model polymer solution. The mathematical model is composed of the non-linear Cahn-Hilliard theory to describe spinodal decomposition dynamics, the Flory-Huggins theory for polymer solution thermodynamics, and the slow mode theory combined with the Rouse law for polymer diffusion. The computer simulations include uniform (no gradient) and non-uniform (with an initial concentration gradient) cases. For the non-uniform cases, the initial concentration gradient is placed at three different regions of polymer sample for the purpose of comparison. All the simulation results are in good agreement with published experimental observations which are reported from the applications of porous polymeric membranes. The structure development shows that an anisotropic porous morphology forms when an initial linear concentration gradient is applied to the model polymer solution.