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Micromechanical models for the stiffness and strength of UHMWPE macrofibrils

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Ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) fibers have a complex hierarchical structure that at the micron-scale is composed of oriented chain crystals, lamellar crystals, and amorphous domains organized into macrofibrils. We developed a computational micromechanical modeling study of the effects of the morphological structure and constituent material properties on the deformation mechanisms, stiffness and strength of the UHMWPE macrofibrils. Specifically, we developed four representative volume elements, which differed in the arrangement and orientation of the lamellar crystals, to describe the various macrofibrillar microstructures observed in recent experiments. The stiffness and strength of the crystals were determined from molecular dynamic simulations of a pure PE crystal. A finite deformation crystal plasticity model was used to describe the crystals and an isotropic viscoplastic model was used for the amorphous phase. The results show that yielding in UHMWPE macrofibrils under axial tension is dominated by the slip in the oriented crystals, while yielding under transverse compression and shear is dominated by slips in both the oriented and lamellar crystals. The results also show that the axial modulus and strength are mainly determined by the volume fraction of the oriented crystals and are insensitive to the arrangements of the lamellar crystals when the modulus of the amorphous phase is significantly smaller than that of the crystals. In contrast, the arrangement and size of the lamellar crystals have a significant effect on the stiffness and strength under transverse compression and shear. These findings can provide a guide for new materials and processing design to improve the properties of UHMWPE fibers by controlling the macrofibrillar morphologies.

Hai Dong, Zheliang Wang, Aurelie Azoug, Thomas C. O’Connor, Mark O. Robbins, Thao D. Nguyen (2018), Micromechanical models for the stiffness and strength of UHMWPE macrofibrils. Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 116, 70-98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmps.2018.03.015

Published in 2018, but first posted here. PDF version can be asked through donghai.gm@gmail.com if it cannot be accessed by the link. Many thanks. 

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