Maastricht, Netherlands – A photograph of a polyurethane network at the molecular level was shown to visitors to the Science session of the UTECH Europe 2021 Conference.
Grazyna Mitchener, director at PolyChemTech consultants, showed the picture as part of her paper, ‘Nature-inspired impact absorbing polyurethanes’.
Mitchener, who was earlier inducted into the UTECH Europe Hall of fame (see picture above) said that she believed that 'it is the first time that a real-life photo of polyurethane chains have been shown to an audience at UTECH'.
The photograph was taken using an atomic force microscope (AFM) by the UK National Physical Laboratory, as part of a research project in the Measurement for Recovery Scheme that is being run in co-operation with Merlin Polyurethanes.
In an AFM, a probe with a tiny sharp tip is run over the surface of a sample. The up and down movement of the probe going over minute chains of polyurethanes (about 2nm thick, about 100,000 thinner than a human hair) is then converted into a 3D picture of the material’s structure at the molecular level. In the picture, the darker lines show individual chains of crosslinked MDI-based polyurethane spreading on the surface of the sample. The molecules lying just slightly below the first layer of chains are already out of focus, and create an orange background.