Dr. Richard Spontak

Dr. Richard Spontak

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Office: 919-515-4200
Mobile: 919-417-3554 (preferred)
Fax: 919-515-3465
Email: (indicate the Subject as CHE 543 on-line: and then label the contents)
Instructor Website

CHE 543 Polymer Science and Technology

3 Credit Hours

This course is intended to provide a broad overview of polymer science and engineering. The emphasis will be given on the synthesis and structure of polymeric materials, the crystalline and glassy states, solution and melt properties, phase behavior, mechanical and rheological properties.


A B.S. Degree in engineering or a related mathematics-oriented science/technology field. Students uncertain if they meet the prerequisites should contact the instructor.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course the students will be able to:

  • Describe the manufacture (using both traditional and non-traditional synthesis schemes) of commercially important polymers using concepts derived from chemical kinetics and equilibrium thermodynamics;
  • Present a basic understanding of the structure of polymer chains in solution (including molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, chain conformation) and methods by which to characterize polymers in solution;
  • Analyze polymer phase behavior using the basic Flory-Huggins theory of polymer solutions/melts;
  • Identify the structure of polymers in the solid state and describe the effects of structural organization (due to crystallinity, liquid crystallinity and phase separation) on the molecular arrangement and end-use properties of polymers;
  • Recognize the basic stress/strain and viscoelastic behavior of polymers from their structure and thermal properties (e.g., melting and glass transition);
  • Apply relevant principles and equations to predict the viscoelastic behavior of polymeric melts.

Course Requirements

HOMEWORK: Bi-weekly homework assignments

EXAMINATIONS: 2 Midterm Examinations and a Final Examination (all closed book/note with equation sheet) with calculators (no computer access)

SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: Internet browser software (e.g., IE, Firefox or Safari), presentation software (e.g., MS PowerPoint), graphing software (e.g., MS Excel, Maple, Mathcad, or Mathematica)

PROJECT: 10-page (double-spaced) maximum literature critique on approved topic (details and format to be provided)

Course Outline by Topical Areas

  • The nature of polymer materials and polymer microstructure: branching, networks, tacticity, and copolymers;
  • Polymer synthesis: step-growth and chain polymerizations;
  • Kinetics of polymerization: the kinetics of step growth and free-radical chain polymerizations with relationships to molecular weight;
  • Statistics of step-growth polymerization: the use of statistics to describe molecular weight distributions;
  • Copolymerization: the kinetics of free-radical copolymerization;
  • Structure: chain conformations, amorphous polymers, and the morphology of semi-crystalline polymers;
  • Crystallization, melting and the glass transition: an introduction to crystallization kinetics, melting and glass formation;
  • Polymer solutions and melts: the principles underlying the Flory-Huggins theory and the thermodynamics of phase behavior;
  • Measurement of molecular weight: osmometry, light scattering, viscosity and size-exclusion chromatography;
  • Mechanical and rheological properties: stress/strain behavior, viscoelasticity, non-linear mechanical and rheological behavior, ultimate properties.


Young, R. J. and Lovell, P. A., Introduction to Polymers, CRC Press, 2011, 3rd Ed., ISBN-13: 978-0849339295 (about $50 new on Amazon; can be rented electronically)

Supplementary textbooks:
Painter, P. C. and Coleman, M. M., Fundamentals of Polymer Science: An Introductory Text, CRC Press, 1998, 2nd Ed., ISBN-13: 978-1566765596 (about $110 new on Amazon; can be rented electronically)

Flory, P. J., Principles of Polymer Chemistry, Cornell University Press, 1953, ISBN-13: 978-0801401343 (about $100 new from the publisher)


Reviewed 4/2/2020