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Keywords:

  • elastomers;
  • liquid-crystalline polymers;
  • mechanical properties;
  • networks;
  • polysiloxanes

Abstract

We examine the influence of structural imperfections on mechanical damping in polydomain smectic main-chain liquid crystalline elastomers (MCLCE) subjected to small strain oscillatory shear. The mechanical loss factor tan δ = G″(ω)/G′(ω) exhibits a strong maximum (tan δ ≈ 1.0) near the smectic-isotropic (clearing) transition. “Optimal” elastomers that exhibit minimal equilibrium swelling in a good solvent are compared with highly swelling “imperfect elastomers” that contain higher concentrations of structural imperfections such as pendant chains. For the imperfect elastomers, tan δ is markedly enhanced in the isotropic state because of relaxation of pendant chains and other imperfections. However, within the smectic state, the magnitude of tan δ and its temperature dependence are similar for optimal and imperfect elastomers at ω = 1 Hz. The prominent loss peak near the clearing transition arises from segment-level relaxations that are insensitive to the details of chain connectivity. Smectic MCLCE can be tailored for applications as vibration-damping materials by manipulating the clearing transition temperature through the backbone structure or by deliberate introduction of structural imperfections such as pendant chains. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 45: 3267–3276, 2007