Plastics e-Learning: Key Concepts
Welcome to Plastics e-Learning
Written by Ian Harrison   

Welcome to a web site that serves as a free source of animated e-learning tools describing basic
concepts in the plastics/polymer science, engineering and technology areas.

Why use this site?
•    It’s easier to learn if you can first obtain an overview or  'framework' for a new area.
     Animation forces more mental interaction with the material and helps develop an overview.
•    E-learning tools are Flash® scientific animations (Modules) and/or virtual instruments (VIs);
     both are so-called Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs).
•   Basic concepts are presented using animation with minimal text or complex equations.
•   Comprehension is approximately junior/senior high school science level, and suitable for
     students and personnel in plastics and related academic or industrial areas.
•   Newly added materials from PREP provide additional ‘one shot’ animations and an
     extensive library of illustrations

From the Main Menu, click on the "List of Modules and VIs" to show sub-groupings for all
available Plastics e-Learning RLOs.  Click on a group and use links within the group to go directly
to the module or VI of interest. Navigation within the RLO is by arrows at top left of the embedded
RLO.  The 'up' arrow returns to the RLO introductory screen showing general topics covered and  
this material’s position in the overall organization. The [Back] button returns to the previous screen;
in this case the starting group of RLOs.

Recently added PREP Materials are divided into ‘Illustrations’ and ‘Animations’ with links to further
topic sub-divisions that consist of groups of related illustrations or animations respectively.

What's covered in these modules and VIs?
Written by Ian Harrison   

The discipline of 'plastics' has been organized into several sections:-

Defining Characteristics - how plastics differ significantly from other materials.
Molecular weight and particularly ideas of molecular weight distribution are generally unique to
polymers.  Shear and elongational Rheology, Reptation, and Shear Normal forces play defining
roles in processing polymers/plastics. One major characteristic of plastic materials is the ability of
macromolecules to undergo massive orientation leading to significant anisotropic final properties.

Synthesis - basics of polymer synthesis and structure of individual polymer chains.
Simplistically macromolecules form in two ways.  Vinyl monomers in chain reactions produce high
molecular weight materials.  Di-functional monomers polymerize via condensation reactions.
Polymer molecules in the same reaction are rarely identical.  Composition distribution is
measured with TREF and sequence distribution is modeled with the Copolymer Composition VI.
Polymers isomerize and free rotation about single bonds leads to conformational changes.

Key Bulk Properties - selected physical properties and their relationship to structure.
Many properties undergo significant Transitions at Tg and Tm.  Mechanical properties are
characterized and modelled with a range of tests and tools including Static and Dynamic
Mechanical tests, Time Temperature Superposition, Simple Spring-Dashpot Models, and
HalpinTsai equations for composites with standard fillers and nano-particles.  Barrier properties
are covered for a wide range of packaging polymers and for idealized nano-filled materials.

Morphology - organization of polymer chains into aggregate structures.
Polymer chains organized on the nanometer to micron size scale re the usual concern.  These
present modules focus on semi-crystalline polymers and their rate of formation or Kinetics of
Crystallization, Crystallization Theories and Morphology of a variety of organized structures.

Processing - basic processes used in the plastics industry to form solids.
Finally polymers are formed into their final shape with a range of techniques.  Extrusion is the
most basic industrial process and is a precursor to all subsequent processes.  Blown film is used
in a many packaging applications and is shown here as a Virtual process.

Characterization Tools - analytical methods with specialized application to polymers.
This new category contains some analytical methods that are almost exclusively used on
polymeric materials. However, many standard analytical techniques are routinely used on
polymers but require specialized application or interpretation.