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Mechanics and physics of solid polymers

Polymers are widely used to manufacture objects for structural and/or functional applications. Although their mechanical properties are not outstanding, the facility and low cost of their fabrication justify the existence of a very active field of fundamental research devoted to their mechanical properties. Moreover, the polymer microstructure can be easily tuned, and then provides an interesting opportunity to verify certain theoretical models of relationships between microstructure and mechanical properties.

The group, studying the physical mechanics of solid polymers and tribology, currently focuses its research activities essentially on

  • the mechanical properties of polymeric surfaces (friction, scratching, indentation, wear, creeping and recovery of imprint)
  • the mechanisms of damage (cracking, crazing, blistering of coating)
  • the mechanical properties of soft matter (dynamic adhesion, patterned contacts).

The team disposes a one-off array of original instruments, permitting measurements over a wide range of temperatures and solicitation speeds: a brand new ultra-nanoindentation and nanoscratch tester, a dynamic JKR with laser interferometry, a scratch and friction apparatus with laser interferometry, a tensile/compression and shearing machine equipped with light scattering, a micro-tensile machine, a mechanical spectrometer, a measurement of deformation fields by image correlation.
link to the instruments page
The work strikes a balance between experimental aspects and theoretical mechanical modelling, finite elements analysis and even the beginning of the correlation between the mechanical properties and molecular dynamics predictions in cooperation with the theoreticians of the institute.

Click pictures to enlarge
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Scratch tester
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Nanoindentation and nanoscratch tester
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Mechanical transition from elastic sliding to fully plastic
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Crescent blister growth during scratching
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Scratch simulation (finite elements)
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Molecular Dynamics simulation of a nanoscratch test
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Tensile machine with coherent backscattering of light measurement
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Principle of the dynamic JKR