Polylactide Stereocomplex Crystallites as Nucleating Agents for Isotactic Polylactide

Scott C. Schmidt, Marc A. Hillmyer

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A nucleation efficiency scale for isotactic poly(L-lactide) (PLLA) was obtained with self-nucleation and nonisothermal differential scanning calorimetry experiments. The maximum nucleation efficiency occurred at the highest concentration of self-nucleating sites, and the minimum efficiency occurred in the absence of these sites (pure PLLA polymer melt). Blends of PLLA and isotactic poly(D-lactide) (PDLA) led to the formation of a 1/1 stereocomplex. In comparison with the homopolymer (PLLA), the stereocomplex had a higher melting temperature and crystallized at higher temperatures from the melt. Small stereocomplex crystallites were formed in PLLA/PDLA blends containing low concentrations of PDLA. These crystallites acted as heterogeneous nucleation sites for subsequent PLLA crystallization. Using the PLLA nucleation efficiency scale, we evaluated a series of PLLA/PDLA blends (0.25-15 wt % PDLA). A maximum nucleation efficiency of 66% was observed at 15 wt % PDLA. The nucleation efficiency was largely dependent on the thermal treatment of the sample. The nucleating ability of the stereocomplex was most efficient when it was formed well before PLLA crystallization. According to the efficiency scale, the stereocomplex was far superior to talc, a common nucleating agent for PLLA, in its ability to enhance the rate of PLLA crystallization. In comparison with the PLLA homopolymer, the addition of PDLA led to reduced spherulite sizes and a reduction in the overall extent of PLLA crystallization. The decreased extent of crystallization was attributed to the hindered mobility of the PLLA chains due to tethering by the stereocomplex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-313
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Polymer Science, Part B: Polymer Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2001


  • Crystallization
  • Differential scanning calorimetry
  • Nucleation
  • Polylactide
  • Stereocomplex


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