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MSE Seminar: “Reaction-Diffusion Driven Pattern Formation in Thermosetting Polymers”
April 1, 2021 at 10:45 AM - 11:45 AM
Reaction-diffusion processes are versatile, yet underexplored methods for manufacturing that provide unique opportunities to control the spatial properties of materials, achieving order through broken symmetry. The mathematical formalism and derivation of equations coupling reaction and diffusion were presented in the seminal paper by Alan Turing [Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 237, 37,1952], which describes how random fluctuations can drive the emergence of pattern and structure from initial uniformity. Inspired by reaction-diffusion systems in nature, this talk will describe a new processing strategy predicated on the exploitation of an advancing polymerization front sustained through coupled reaction and thermal diffusion. The system uses the exothermic release of energy to provide a positive feedback to the reaction. In turn, this stimulates further exothermic energy release and a self-propagating reaction “front” that rapidly moves through the material – a process called frontal polymerization. We recently reported the frontal ring-opening metathesis polymerization (FROMP) of dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) that exhibits the high energy density, high reactivity, relatively long pot life, and low viscosity required for the synthesis of high-performance thermosetting polymers and composites [Robertson et al., Nature, 557 (2018)]. This talk will describe several novel methods to control thermal transport in this system, giving rise to symmetry breaking events that enable complex, emergent pattern formation and control over growth, topology, and shape.