Glass Transition Temperature (Tg)

Published: | Updated: November 30, 2020

Definition - What does Glass Transition Temperature (Tg) mean?

A glass transition temperature (Tg) is the temperature at which a polymer turns from a ductile material to a hard, brittle material. It is the temperature at which carbon chains start to move. At this stage, the amorphous region experiences a transition from a rigid state to a flexible state with the temperature at the border of the solid state changing it to more of a rubbery one. At this temperature the free volume, or the gap between the molecular chains, increases by 2.5 times.

The glass transition temperature is a property of the amorphous portion of a semicrystalline material. At the point where the ambient temperature is below Tg, the molecules of amorphous materials remain frozen in place and behave like solid glass. Plastic materials have a lower Tg, although plastic materials whose molecular structure is stiff and rigid show a higher Tg.

Every polymer with an amorphous structure has its own unique glass transition temperature, which is a useful factor in determining whether a given material is better suited for flexible or rigid applications.

Figure 1. Graph of glass transition temperature plotting the temperature and stiffness of a material.

Figure 1. Graph of glass transition temperature plotting the temperature and stiffness of a material.

Corrosionpedia explains Glass Transition Temperature (Tg)

The temperature at which an amorphous polymer material turns into a viscous liquid or rubbery form when heated is known as the glass transition temperature (Tg). It can also be defined as a temperature at which an amorphous polymer develops the characteristic glassy-state properties such as brittleness, stiffness and rigidity upon cooling. This temperature can be used to identify polymers.

The value of Tg depends heavily on the mobility of the polymer chain, and for most synthetic polymers lies between 170°K and 500°K (-103°C and 227°C).

Pure crystalline polymers do not have a glass transition temperature because the glass transition temperature is only applicable to amorphous polymers. Pure amorphous polymers do not have a melting temperature; they only have a glass transition temperature. However, many polymers are composed of both amorphous and crystalline structures. This means that many polymers have both a glass transition temperature and a melting temperature. The glass transition temperature is lower than the melting temperature.

Practical Applications of the Glass Transition Temperature

The different glass transition temperatures of different polymers make various polymers better suited for some applications than others. For instance, a rubber tire for an automobile is soft and ductile because at normal operating temperatures it is well above its glass transition temperature. If its glass transition temperature were greater than its operating temperature, it would not have the flexibility required to grip the pavement.

Other polymers are designed to operate below their glass transition temperature. An example of this is a stiff plastic handle on a tool. If the plastic handle were to have a glass transition temperature below its operating temperature, it would be too flexible to allow one to grab it and effectively use the tool.


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