Structural heterogeneity defines the properties of many functional polymers and it is often crucial for their performance and ability to withstand mechanical impact. Such heterogeneity, however, poses a tremendous challenge for characterization of these materials and limits our ability to design them rationally. Herein we present a practical methodology capable of resolving the complex mechanical behavior and tracking mechanical impact in discrete phases of segmented polyurethane—a typical example of a structurally complex polymer. Using direct optical imaging of photoluminescence produced by a small-molecule organometallic mechano-responsive sensor we observe in real time how polymer phases dissipate energy, restructure, and breakdown upon mechanical impact. Owing to its simplicity and robustness, this method has potential in describing the evolution of complex soft-matter systems for which global characterization techniques fall short of providing molecular-level insight.
- mechanical properties
- molecular dynamics