“Polymer properties” in the Faculty of Materials Engineering

Prof. Joachim Fröhlich

The last few decades have seen huge growth in polymer materials. Back in the early 1950s, annual global consumption was only a few million metric tons; today, that number stands at well over 250 million tons per year – and the trend is still rising. Polymer materials owe this enormous importance partly to their enormous product diversity, but especially to their unique processing and application properties. For example, plastics are highly versatile in terms of moulding, which in turns offers huge design freedom for components. Moreover, they are extremely lightweight materials, even in comparison with light metals such as aluminium, while still boasting excellent mechanical properties. So, it’s no surprise that, following the general trend towards lightweight construction in the automobile sector, polymer materials have also gained enormous technical and quantitative importance in this area.

In the first degree component of the bachelor’s degree in Materials Engineering, students are taught the basics of polymer materials. For example, they learn the difference between a thermoplastic and a thermoset or an elastomer. Particular attention is also given to the chemical and structural differences between these classes of materials. Why can one plastic be used as a polymer fibre, but others cannot? Students’ understanding of interrelationships such as this will be comprehensively developed as part of this course. The course content is rounded off with a general overview of the chemical, physical, and application properties of polymers. Environmental and recycling aspects are also included in the discussion.

In the advanced lectures given as part of the specialization (bachelor’s degree component) or in the master’s programme, the knowledge gained in the first academic phase is expanded through selected, application-related special topics in the field of polymer materials. Particular attention here is given to the mechanical and thermal properties of polymers. Dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) of the time- and temperature-dependent material behaviour of polymers is also of great importance. Why does a thermoplastic creep under load during its lifetime, or how does a tyre tread create road grip in wet conditions? Students will have the opportunity to work out detailed answers to questions such as these together.