Resin acids (or natural rosin) are a class of abundant, renewable natural biomass. Most low molecular weight resin acid-containing polymers are very brittle due to their low chain entanglement associated with the pendant, intrinsically bulky hydrophenanthrene group. The use of block copolymer architectures can enhance chain entanglement and thus improve toughness. A-B-A type triblock and A-B-A-B-A type pentablock copolymers were synthesized by ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) with one-pot sequential monomer addition of a rosin-based monomer and norbornene. We investigated the effect of chain architecture and microphase separation on mechanical properties of both types of block copolymers. Pentablock copolymers exhibited higher strength and toughness as compared to both the triblock copolymers and the corresponding homopolymers. The greater toughness of pentablock copolymers is due to the presence of the rosin-based midblock chains that act as bridging chains between two polynorbornene domains. SAXS and AFM data were consistent with short-range phase separation of microdomains in all tri- and pentablock copolymers.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors acknowledge the funding support from National Science Foundation (DMR-1252611). X-ray work was conducted at South Carolina SAXS Collaborative supported by the NSF Major Research Instrumentation program (DMR-1428620).