Synthesis and Characterization of High Molecular Weight Water-Soluble Polymers to Study the Role of Extensional Viscosity in Polymeric Drag Reduction

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Polymers and High Performance Materials

First Advisor

Charles L. McCormick

Advisor Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials


Several high molecular weight water-soluble acrylamide copolymers identified as efficient drag reducers have been synthesized, characterized, and examined for drag reduction effectiveness. Commercially supplied poly(ethylene oxide) polymers of varying molecular weight were also characterized and studied for comparison. The resistance to polymer extension was measured using a screen extensional rheometer allowing for the local extensional viscosity of each polymer to be quantified. Copolymer composition was determined using 13C NMR. Dilute solution properties and molecular weights were determined from zero shear intrinsic viscosity measurements and multi-angle laser light scattering experiments respectively. Molecular weights ranged from 0.55 to 4.3 million grams per mole. Drag reduction measurements were performed using a rotating disk instrument. Drag reduction data were analyzed by several theoretical models. The best correlation was found using the energy model of Walsh. Empirically, drag reduction was found to be directly related to the local extensional viscosity of each polymer sample. A model is presented explaining drag reduction in terms of increased local viscosity leading to decreased turbulence characterized with a decreased local Reynolds number. Molecular weight was found to be the most important molecular parameter of the polymers studied with polymers of greater molecular weight showing superior drag reduction properties.