Dr. Gregory McKenna

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Phone: 919.515.6016
Instructor Website

CHE 596 612 Adventures in Polymer Physics

3 Credit Hours

This is a graduate student level course on the fundamentals of polymeric materials from a physical science perspective. The course is designed to provide the students with the basis to be able to understand and use the fundamentals of polymer science and engineering. The class will cover Solution properties, chain conformation, and molar mass characterization; Rubber elasticity and viscoelastic behavior; Crystalline polymers and morphology, glass transition and mechanical properties of crystalline and amorphous polymers.


Graduate Standing

Course Objectives

Some specific aims of the course are for the students to:


  • Be able to demonstrate understanding of mixing thermodynamics. (Flory- Huggins theory).
  • Understand dilute solution behavior as it relates to polymer characterization.
  • Be able to calculate rubber elasticity response using entropy models.
  • Be able to calculate molecular weight distributions.
  • Understand the glass transition.
  • Understand importance of crystallinity in polymers.
  • Understand polymer engineering properties such as yield and fatigue resistance.
  • Understand and be able to model kinetics of crystallization in polymers (nucleation and growth).
  • Understand the behavior of polymer composites and nanocomposites.


J.M.G. Cowie and V. Arrighi, Polymers: Chemistry and Physics of Modern Materials, Third Edition, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2008.


J.M.G. Cowie, Polymers: Chemistry and Physics of Modern Materials, Second Edition, Blackie Academic & Professional, New York, 1991.


References & other readings

G.B. McKenna, “Glass Formation and Glassy Behavior,”in Comprehensive Polymer Science: Vol. 2. Polymer Properties, ed. By C. Booth and C. Price, Pergamon, Oxford, 311-363 (1989). (provided to students)

G.B. McKenna, “Viscoelasticity,” in Encyclopedia of Polymer Science and Technology, 3rd edition, John Wiley and Sons, NY, 2002. DOI: 10.1002/0471440264.pst395 (provided to students)

R.S. Stein and J. Powers, Topics in Polymer Physics, Imperial College Press, London, 2006. U.W. Gedde, Polymer Physics, Chapman and Hall, London, 1995

F.W. Billmeyer, Jr., Textbook of Polymer Science, 3rd. Edition, Wiley-Interscience, NewYork, 1984.

J.-L. Halary, F. Laupretre, L. Monnerie, Polymer Materials: Macroscopic Properties and Molecular Interpretations, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ, 2011.


5 % – Class participation
0 %  – Homework (But lack of submission and completion of homeworks results in negative points of 5% per homework )
30% –  Project
65 % – Exams (15% exam 1, 20% exam 2, 30% Final Exam)

Tentative Course Outline:

Lessons 1-3 “Introduction to Polymers”

  • What is a polymer and why are polymers important.
  • Types of polymers and bonding in polymers.
  • Long Chain Molecules: Molecular Weight and Its Measurement.

Lessons 4-6 “Polymer Solution Behavior and Chain Dimensions”

  • Colligative Properties and molecular weight measurements.
  • Hydrodynamic properties and molecular architecture effects.
  • What happens when the molecules get too concentrated?
  • Polymer chain dimensions.

Lessons 7-13 “Transitions in Polymers”

  • Polymers in solution and Flory-Huggins Theory
  • Phase transitions in blends
    • Thermodynamics of blending
  • Polymer crystals and their morphology.
    • The chain folded structure
    • Fiber morphologies
  • Kinetics of crystallization
    • Nucleation and growth
  • The glass transition
    • Thermodynamic view
    • Kinetic view
    • Free Volume
    • Configurational Entropy
    • Aging of the non-equilibrium glass

Lessons 14-16 “Rubber Elasticity and Rubber Behavior”

  • The fundamentals of rubber thermodynamics, deformation
  • The fundamentals of rubber thermodynamics, swelling
  • Stress-strain response and dynamic response of rubber and of filled rubber

Lessons 17 – 21 “Mechanical Properties of Polymers

  • Stress – strain behavior
    • Semi-crystalline
    • Amorphous above Tg
    • Amorphous glassy
  • Polymer Fatigue and Fracture
    • Crazes and cracks
    • Static fatigue
    • Dynamic fatigue
  • Viscoelastic response of polymers
    • Boltzmann superposition and spectral representations
    • Time temperature superposition

Lessons 22-24 “Polymer Composites”

  • Fiber Reinforced Composites
    • From Automotive to Aerospace
  • Particulate Composites
    • From flooring to aerospace
  • Nanocomposites and polymers at the nanoscale

There will be two in-term tests, one project, and a final exam.

Computer and Software Requirements

Please review the minimum computer specifications that NC State University and Engineering Online recommend.

Updated: 11/09/2022