The molecular mechanism of crystallization in helical polymers is a fascinating but very difficult subject of research. We here report our recent efforts toward better understanding of the crystallization in helical polymers by use of molecular-dynamics simulation. With straightforward approaches to the problem being quite difficult, we adopt a different strategy of categorizing the helical polymers into two distinct types: one type is a simple bare helix which is essentially made of backbone atomic groups only and has smoother molecular contours, and the other is a more general helix having large side groups that would considerably hamper molecular motion and crystallization. Both types of helical polymers are here constructed by use of the united atom model, but they show quite distinct crystallization behavior; the crystallization of the former-type polymer is rather fast, while that of the latter-type polymer is extremely slow. We find that the bare helix, when rapidly cooled in free three-dimensional space, freezes into partially ordered state with limited intramolecular and intermolecular orders, and that remarkable improvement of order and growth of an ordered chain-folded crystallite occurs by very long-time annealing of the partially ordered state around the apparent freezing temperature. We also study crystallization of the bare helix upon a growth surface; the crystallization in this case proceeds much faster through highly cooperative process of the intermolecular and the intramolecular degrees of freedom. On the other hand, crystallization of the realistic model of isotactic polypropylene (iPP) having pendant methylene groups is found to be extremely sluggish. By restricting the spatial dimension of the system thereby fully disentangling the chain, we observe that the molecule of iPP crystallizes very quickly onto the crystal substrate made of the same iPP chain. Quite remarkable is that the molecule of iPP strictly recognizes the helical sense of the substrate chain and efficiently selects its chirality during crystallization.

You do not currently have access to this content.