Soft matter: Rubber and networks

Gregory B. McKenna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Rubber networks are important and form the basis for materials with properties ranging from rubber tires to super absorbents and contact lenses. The development of the entropy ideas of rubber deformation thermodynamics provides a powerful framework from which to understand and to use these materials. In addition, swelling of the rubber in the presence of small molecule liquids or solvents leads to materials that are very soft and 'gel' like in nature. The review covers the thermodynamics of polymer networks and gels from the perspective of the thermodynamics and mechanics of the strain energy density function. Important relationships are presented and experimental results show that the continuum ideas contained in the phenomenological thermodynamics are valid, but that the molecular bases for some of them remain to be fully elucidated. This is particularly so in the case of the entropic gels or swollen networks. The review is concluded with some perspectives on other networks, ranging from entropic polymer networks such as thermoplastic elastomers to physical gels in which cross-link points are formed by glassy or crystalline domains. A discussion is provided for other physical gels in which the network forms a spinodal-like decomposition, both in thermoplastic polymers that form a glassy network upon phase separation and for colloidal gels that seem to have a similar behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number066602
JournalReports on Progress in Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 19 2018


  • colloidal gel
  • finite elasticity
  • gel
  • network
  • polymer
  • strain energy function
  • thermodynamics


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