Hierarchical structure in polymeric materials

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Science  27 Feb 1987:
Vol. 235, Issue 4792, pp. 1015-1022
DOI: 10.1126/science.3823866


The diversity of monomers available for synthesis of high polymers makes it possible to prepare a wide variety of long-chain macromolecular compounds. It is instructive to consider a hierarchical organization of structure in polymers at four successive levels--the molecular, nano-, micro-, and macrolevels--and to examine how interactions at and between these various levels of structure have important and often quite specific influences. Examples are drawn from semicrystalline polymers with flexible chains, liquid-crystalline polymers composed of rigid macromolecules, and amorphous polymers. Structural hierarchies in biocomposite systems are also discussed, particularly in soft connective tissues such as tendon and intervertebral disk.