Flory–Schulz distribution

The Flory–Schulz distribution is a probability distribution named after Paul Flory and Günter Victor Schulz that describes the relative ratios of polymers of different length that occur in an ideal step-growth polymerization process. The probability mass function (pmf) for the mass fraction (chemistry) of chains of length is:

Flory–Schulz distribution
Parameters 0 < a < 1 (real)
Support k ∈ { 1, 2, 3, ... }
Ex. kurtosis

In this equation, k is the numer of monomers in the chain[1], and 0<a<1 is an empirically determined constant related to the fraction of unreacted monomer remaining.[2]

The form of this distribution implies is that shorter polymers are favored over longer ones -the chain length is geometrically distributed. Apart from polymerization processes, this distribution is also relevant to the Fischer–Tropsch process that is conceptually related, in that lighter hydrocarbons are converted to heavier hydrocarbons that are desirable as a liquid fuel.

The pmf of this distribution is a solution of the following equation:


  1. Paul J. Flory, "Molecular Size Distribution in Linear Condensation Polymers1", Journal of the American Chemical Society (in German), 58 (10), pp. 1877–1885, doi:10.1021/ja01301a016, ISSN 0002-7863
  2. IUPAC, Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the "Gold Book") (1997). Online corrected version:  (2006) "most probable distribution". doi:10.1351/goldbook.M04035
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