Frontal polymerization in microgravity - Results from the conquest I sounding rocket flight

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Frontal polymerization is a mode of concerting monomer into polymer via a localized reaction zone that propagates, most often through the coupling of thermal diffusion and Arrhenius reaction kinetics. Because of convective instabilities, it is not possible to perform frontal polymerization with many monomers that produce thermoplastics, such as n-butyl acrylate, without the addition of a viscosity enhancing agent. Performing propagating fronts of n-butyl acrylatf polymerization on the Conquest I sounding rocket allowed us to determine that the ultrafine silica gel (CAB-O-SIL) used in ground based research had only a small effect an the molecular weight of the polymer produced. Samples prepared with CAB-O-SIL did have slightly broader molecular weight distributions that could reflect the decrease in termination because of the higher viscosity. However, the difference could also be caused by differences in front temperature because of the lack of convective heat losses under weightlessness.

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Microgravity Science and Technology

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