Thermal Fractionation and isothermal crystallization of polyethylene nanocomposites prepared by in situ polymerization
Trujillo, M., Arnal, M. L., Mueller, A. J., Bredeau, S., Bonduel, D., Dubois, P., Hamley, I. W. and Castelletto, V. (2008) Thermal Fractionation and isothermal crystallization of polyethylene nanocomposites prepared by in situ polymerization. Macromolecules, 41 (6). pp. 2087-2095. ISSN 0024-9297
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1021/ma702272e
Nanocomposites of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and carbon nanotubes (CNT) of different geometries (single wall, double wall, and multiwall; SWNT, DWNT, and MWNT) were prepared by in situ polymerization of ethylene on CNT whose surface had been previously treated with a metallocene catalytic system. In this work, we have studied the effects of applying the successive self-nucleation and annealing thermal fractionation technique (SSA) to the nanocomposites and have also determined the influence of composition and type of CNT on the isothermal crystallization behavior of the HDPE. SSA results indicate that all types of CNT induce the formation of a population of thicker lamellar crystals that melt at higher temperatures as compared to the crystals formed in neat HDPE prepared under the same catalytic and polymerization conditions and subjected to the same SSA treatment. Furthermore, the peculiar morphology induced by the CNT on the HDPE matrix allows the resolution of thermal fractionation to be much better. The isothermal crystallization results indicated that the strong nucleation effect caused by CNT reduced the supercooling needed for crystallization. The interaction between the HDPE chains and the surface of the CNT is probably very strong as judged by the results obtained, even though it is only physical in nature. When the total crystallinity achieved during isothermal crystallization is considered as a function of CNT content, it was found that a competition between nucleation and topological confinement could account for the results. At low CNT content the crystallinity increases (because of the nucleating effect of CNT on HDPE), however, at higher CNT content there is a dramatic reduction in crystallinity reflecting the increased confinement experienced by the HDPE chains at the interfaces which are extremely large in these nanocomposites. Another consequence of these strong interactions is the remarkable decrease in Avrami index as CNT content increases. When the Avrami index reduces to I or lower, nucleation dominates the overall kinetics as a consequence of confinement effects. Wide-angle X-ray experiments were performed at a high-energy synchrotron source and demonstrated that no change in the orthorhombic unit cell of HDPE occurred during crystallization with or without CNT.