This contribution considers recent developments in the computer modelling of amorphous polymeric materials. Progress in our capabilities to build models for the computer simulation of polymers from the detailed atomistic scale up to coarse-grained mesoscopic models, together with the ever-improving performance of computers, have led to important insights from computer simulations into the structural and dynamic properties of amorphous polymers. Structurally, chain connectivity introduces a range of length scales from that of the chemical bond to the radius of gyration of the polymer chain covering 2-4 orders of magnitude. Dynamically, this range of length scales translates into an even larger range of time scales observable in relaxation processes in amorphous polymers ranging from about 10-13 to 10-3 s or even to 103 s when glass dynamics is concerned. There is currently no single simulation technique that is able to describe all these length and time scales efficiently. On large length and time scales basic topology and entropy become the governing properties and this fact can be exploited using computer simulations of coarse-grained polymer models to study universal aspects of the structure and dynamics of amorphous polymers. On the largest length and time scales chain connectivity is the dominating factor leading to the strong increase in longest relaxation times described within the reptation theory of polymer melt dynamics. Recently, many of the universal aspects of this behaviour have been further elucidated by computer simulations of coarse-grained polymer models. On short length scales the detailed chemistry and energetics of the polymer are important, and one has to be able to capture them correctly using chemically realistic modelling of specific polymers, even when the aim is to extract generic physical behaviour exhibited by the specific chemistry. Detailed studies of chemically realistic models highlight the central importance of torsional dynamics in all relaxation processes in polymer materials. Finally, the interplay between local energetics, both intramolecular and intermolecular, and the local packing governs the glass transition in polymer melts. © 2004 IOP Publishing Ltd.
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