Block Copolymer Micelle Toughened Isotactic Polypropylene

Jun Xu, Micah J. Howard, Vikas Mittal, Frank S. Bates

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30 Scopus citations


A series of compositionally symmetric poly(ethylene-alt-propylene)-b-poly(ethylene-ran-ethyl ethylene) (PEP-PEEE) diblock copolymers were synthesized by anionic polymerization of isoprene and butadiene followed by heterogeneous catalytic hydrogenation. These materials were melt blended with isotactic polypropylene (iPP) at concentrations between 1.25 and 20 wt %, and the resulting morphologies were investigated using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Uniformly dispersed micelles with an average diameter of approximately 100 nm were obtained in blends with PEP-PEEE molecular weights of 100 and 240 kg/mol. Tensile tests showed a 25-fold increase in the strain at break at a concentration of just 2.5 wt % with no discernible loss in elastic modulus or tensile strength. Blends containing 5 and 10 wt % micelles displayed 5 and 12 times the Izod impact strength of the pure iPP, respectively. Conversely, blends prepared with PEP homopolymer formed larger particles (â‰0.5 μm in diameter) accompanied by marginal improvement in the tensile and impact properties at the same concentrations. The toughening mechanisms were investigated using electron microscopy, which revealed cavitation-induced shear yielding and multiple crazing in the iPP/PEP-PEEE blends, and limited plastic deformation in the iPP/PEP blend. A published theory that accounts for this type of toughening has been employed to model the rubber modified solids when subjected to different stress states leading to predictive criteria for cavitation and shear yielding. These results establish the relationship between rubber particle size and toughness in rubber-modified iPP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6421-6432
Number of pages12
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 12 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Ronald Lewis and Fang Zhou for assistance in TEM sample preparation. We are grateful to Dr. James Eagan for performing the high-temperature SEC experiment. This work was financially supported by the Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Some of the experiments were conducted in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program. The authors also thank one of the reviewers for an extensive set of in-depth comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.

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