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Spatio-temporal growth of isotactic polystyrene single crystals during isothermal crystallization has been investigated theoretically based on the phase field model by solving temporal evolution of a nonconserved phase order parameter coupled with a heat conduction equation. In the description of the total free energy, an asymmetric double-well local free energy density has been adopted to represent the metastable melt and the stable solid crystal. Unlike the small molecule systems, polymer crystallization rarely reaches thermodynamic equilibrium; most polymer crystals are kinetically stabilized in some metastable states. To capture various metastable polymer crystals, the phase field crystal order parameter at the solidification potential has been treated to be supercooling dependent such that it can assume an intermediate value between zero (melt) and unity (perfect crystal), reflecting imperfect polycrystalline nature of polymer crystals. Two-dimensional simulations exhibit various single crystal morphologies of isotactic polystyrene crystals such as faceted hexagonal patterns transforming to nonfaceted snowflakes with increasing supercooling. Of particular interest is that heat liberation from the crystallizing front influences the curvature of the crystal-melt interface, leading to directional growth of lamellar tips and side branches. The landscape of these morphological textures has been established as a function of anisotropy of surface energy and supercooling. With increasing supercooling and decreasing anisotropy, the hexagonal single crystal transforms to the dense lamellar branching morphology in conformity with the experimental findings.

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Physical Review E





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Copyright 2005 American Physical Society. The original published version of this article may be found at