As the workhorses of the plastics industry, polyolefins are consumed in the largest volume of all types of polymers. Despite their wide use, polyolefins suffer from poor adhesion and compatibility with other polar polymers due to their intrinsic low polarity and lack of functional groups.
The first goal of this study is to enhance interfacial adhesion between polyolefins with other polymers through coupling reaction of functional polymers. We have used functional polyethylenes with maleic anhydride, hydroxyl, primary and secondary amino groups grafted through reactive extrusion. Functional polyolefins dramatically improved the performance of polyolefins, including adhesion, compatibility, hardness and scratch resistance, and greatly expand their applications.
The second goal is to understand the factors affecting adhesion. We systematically investigated two categories of parameters. One is molecular: the type and incorporation level of functional groups. The other is processing condition: die design in extruders, reaction time and temperature. The interfacial adhesion was measured with the asymmetric dual cantilever beam test and T-peel test. The extent of reaction was quantified through measuring anchored copolymers via X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. A quantitative correlation between adhesion and coupling reaction was developed.
A coextruded bilayer system with coupling reaction at interfaces was created to clarify processing effects on the kinetics of coupling reactions. For the reaction between maleic anhydride modified polyethylene and nylon 6, the reaction rate during coextrusion through a fishtail die with compressive/extensional flow was strikingly almost two orders of magnitude larger than that through a constant thickness die without compressive flow. The latter reaction rate was close to that of quiescent lamination. We attribute the reaction acceleration through the fishtail die to the large deformation rate under the compressive/extensional flow condition. The deformation generated stretched chains leading to complimentary functional groups exposed to each other and forcing reactive species to overcome the interfacial diffusion barrier. We also found reaction acceleration through a fishtail die for the coupling of functional PE with thermoplastic polyurethane. This work illustrates that enhancing the compressive/extensional flow during polymer processing may create opportunities for increasing adhesion and designing new reactions and products.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2011. Major: Material Science and Engineering. Advisor: Chris Macosko. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 177 pages, appendices A-D.
Interfacial coupling between immiscible polymers: flow accelerates reaction and improves adhesion..
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