Chien-Hua Tu, Martin Steinhart, Rüdiger Berger, Michael Kappl, Hans-Jürgen Butt, George Floudas
Semicrystalline polymers are solids that are supposed to flow only above their melting temperature. By using confinement within nanoscopic cylindrical pores, we show that a semicrystalline polymer can flow at temperatures below the melting point with a viscosity intermediate to the melt and crystal states. During this process, the capillary force is strong and drags the polymer chains in the pores without melting the crystal. The unexpected enhancement in flow, while preserving the polymer crystallites, is of importance in the design of polymer processing conditions applicable at low temperatures, e.g., cold drawn polymers such as polytetrafluoroethylene, self-healing, and in nanoconfined donor/acceptor polymers used in organic electronics.