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Ageing and rejuvenation in glassy amorphous polymers
Physical ageing of amorphous polymers well below their glass transition temperature leads to changes in almost all physical properties. Of particular interest is the increase in yield stress and post-yield strain softening that accompanies ageing of these materials. Moreover, at larger strain polymers seem to rejuvenate, i.e. aged and non-aged samples have identical stress–strain responses. Also, plastically deforming an aged sample seems to rejuvenate the polymer. In this work we use molecular dynamic simulations with a detailed force field suitable for macromolecular ensembles to simulate and understand the effects of ageing on the mechanical response of these materials. We show that within the timescales of these simulations it is possible to simulate both ageing and rejuvenation. The short range potentials play an important role in ageing and rejuvenation. A typical yield drop exhibited by glassy polymers is a manifestation of a sudden relaxation in the short range structure of an aged polymer. Moreover, the aged polymers are known to be brittle. We show that this is intimately related to its typical stress–strain response which allows it to carry arbitrarily large mean stresses ahead of a notch.