It's the story after Flory

Polymer Physics. First edition

November 28, 2003

No single book can claim to encompass the whole of polymer physics, and this book is no exception. It might more accurately be called "Polymer Physics beyond Flory". This is made clear by the authors near the end of their preface, where they comment that their motivation for writing the book was that its primary antecedent, written by Paul Flory, is now 50 years old.

Interestingly, Flory's book was called Principles of Polymer Chemistry (not physics), but this and other seminal works by Pierre-Gilles de Gennes and Masao Doi and Sam Edwards encompass the primary concepts developed and explained in this excellent book.

It follows that Michael Rubinstein and Ralph Colby focus on the statistical physics of ideal and non-ideal polymer chains, the thermodynamics of polymer blends and solutions, the theory of networks and gelation, the dynamics and relaxation behaviour of unentangled and entangled polymer chains, with and without side chains, and polymer reptation in solution and in the melt.

In these areas the book's coverage is excellent and brings together mean field theory and statistical mechanics approaches with experimental findings to explain and illustrate current understanding of the subject.

It deals only briefly with computer simulation, drawing attention to the power and usefulness of molecular dynamics and Monte Carlo simulations, with no attempt to review the vast literature in this area. The reader interested in these topics will need to seek out other books and resort to the primary literature.

The target readership is final-year undergraduates and first-year postgraduate students; however, the book has also been designed as a reference work for practising polymer scientists and engineers. It will appeal to its intended audience with its emphasis on providing physical insight rather than giving exhaustive coverage of the underlying mathematics.

The book is well structured with sound logical development - moving from introductory concepts to advanced topics progressively.

Each chapter contains a useful summary of its content at the end, before presenting copious problems as exercises that interested readers or directed students can tackle.

Each chapter also includes a short bibliography of the most important primary publications it uses. This is good for the student or those new to the field, but it is of less value for the practising scientist, who may want to use the textbook as a reference work and will therefore require a more substantial bibliography.

In summary, the book is well written and opens up its subject matter in a very accessible way to its intended audience. Many lecturers teaching polymer physics will find it useful and will probably want to make use of - and adapt - its exercises to the needs of their students.

I am pleased to have it on my bookshelf as a reference work and would expect most institutions to have a copy on their library shelves.

Gary C. Stevens is professor of polymer science, University of Surrey.

Polymer Physics. First edition

Author - Michael Rubinstein and Ralph H. Colby
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Pages - 440
Price - £55.00
ISBN - 0 19 852059 X

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