Mechanism of submicrocrack generation in stressed polymers



Submicrocracks, free radicals, and endgroups of scissioned molecules formed in polyethylene, polypropylene, and polycaprolactam under uniaxial tension have been investigated. Measurements were carried out by small-angle x-ray scattering, electron paramagnetic resonance, and infrared spectroscopy. The concentration of submicrocracks is almost the same as that of free radicals but is smaller than the concentration of scissioned macromolecules by approximately three orders of magnitude. The number of scissions per crack proved to be close to the number of macromolecules passing through the cross section of a submicrocrack calculated on the assumption of close packing. It is concluded that submicrocracks in stressed polymers are formed as a result of chain reactions of macromolecular decomposition initiated by the active end primary free radicals.