Semicrystalline blends of polyethylene and isotactic polypropylene: Improving mechanical performance by enhancing the interfacial structure

Kimberly A. Chaffin, Frank S. Bates, Patrick Brant, Gary M. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

The low-temperature mechanical behavior of semicrystalline polymer blends is investigated. Isotactic polypropylene (iPP) is blended with both Zeigler-Natta polyethylene (PE) and metallocene PE. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) on failed tensile bars reveals that the predominate failure mode in the Zeigler-Natta blend is interfacial, while that in the metallocene blend is failure of the iPP matrix. The observed change in failure mode is accompanied by a 40% increase in both tensile toughness and elongation at -10 °C. We argue that crystallite anchoring of interfacially entangled chains is responsible for this dramatic property improvement in the metallocene blend. The interfacial width between PE and iPP melts is approximately 40 angstroms, allowing significant interfacial entanglement in both blends. TEM micrographs illustrate that the segregation of low molecular weight amorphous material in the Zeigler-Natta blend reduces the number and quality of crystalline anchors as compared with the metallocene blend. The contribution of anchored interfacial structure was further explored by introducing a block copolymer at the PE/iPP interface in the metallocene blend. Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) experiments show the block copolymer dilutes the number of crystalline anchors, decoupling the interface. Increasing the interfacial coverage of the block copolymer reduces the number of anchored interfacial chains. At 2% block copolymer loading, the low-temperature failure mode of the metallocene blend changes from iPP failure to interfacial failure, reducing the blend toughness and elongation to that of the Zeigler-Natta blend. This work demonstrates that anchored interfacial entanglements are a critical factor in designing semicrystalline blends with improved low-temperature properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-121
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Polymer Science, Part B: Polymer Physics
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

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