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Abstract

Measurement of the molecular weight distributions of copolymers by size exclusion chromatography (SEC) presents problems because the elution volume of any species may depend on its composition as well as its molecular weight. Also, the response of the usual concentration detectors may also be influenced by the copolymer composition as well as its concentration. These problems arise when the copolymer composition may vary with molecular size. Conventional SEC techniques are suitable for copolymers with invariant compositions. This article describes and illustrates a method for measuring molecular weight distributions of copolymers. In many cases, the variation of copolymer composition with molecular weight can also be determined. The technique uses three detectors: (a) an evaporative detector (ED) to measure the concentration, Δc, of the eluting species; (b) a differential refractive index detector (DRI) to measure the refractive index difference, Δn, between the solution and solvent at any given elution volume; and (c) a low-angle laser light scattering (LALLS) detector that measures the corresponding molecular weight of the eluting solutes. This latter measurement is possible because the appropriate values of Δnc are available from the outputs of the other two detectors. For LALLS measurements of molecular weight all the species in the detector cell at any instant must have the same composition or, at least not have Δnc that varies with composition. The method is illustrated with data from ethylene-propylene and ethylene-propylene-diene copolymers.