Advances in Multidisciplinary Engineering
Processing/Structure/Properties Relationships in Polymer Blends for the Development of Functional Polymer Foams
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In this study we present a comprehensive experimental investigation of the effect of polymer blending on the dispersed phase morphology and how the dispersed phase morphology influences the foaming behavior of the semicrystalline polymer matrix using three different material combinations: polyethylene (PE)/polypropylene (PP), PP/polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and PP/polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Samples are prepared such that the dispersed phase domains exhibit either spherical or fibrillated morphologies. Measurements of the uniaxial extensional viscosity, linear viscoelastic properties and crystallization kinetics under ambient pressures and elevated pressures of carbon dioxide (CO2) are performed and the morphological features are identified with the aid of SEM. Batch foaming and lab-scale extrusion foaming experiments are performed, as a screening model for polymer processing, to show the enhancement of the foaming ability as a result of the blend morphology, taking into account the rheological behaviour and the effects of crystallization kinetics. The formation of high aspect ratio fibrils imparts unique characteristics to the semicrystalline matrix such as strain-hardening in uniaxial extensional flow, prolonged relaxation times, pronounced elastic properties and enhanced kinetics of crystallization. In contrast, the regular blends containing spherical dispersed phase domains do not exhibit such properties. Foam processing of the three blends reveals a marked broadening of the foaming window when the dispersed phase domains are fibrillated due to the concurrent increase in crystallization kinetics, improved elastic properties and strain hardening in extensional flow.