Compatibilisation and stabilisation of immiscible polymer blends by reactive processing
The main objectives of this research were to develop optimised chemical compositions and reactive processing conditions for grafting a functional monomer maleic anhydride (MA) in polypropylene (PP), ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) and mixtures of PP-EPDM, and to optimise synthetic routes for production of PP/EPDM copolymers for the purpose of compatibilisation of PP/EPDM blends. The MA-functionalisation was achieved using an internal mixer in the presence of low concentrations (less than 0.01 molar ratio) of a free radical initiator. Various methods were used to purify MA-functionalised PP and the grafting yield was determined using either FTIR or titrametry. The grafting yield of MA alone, which due to its low free-radical reactivity towards polymer macroradicals, was accompanied by severe degradation in the case of PP and crosslinking for EPDM. In the case of MA-functionalised PP/EPDM, both degradation and crosslinking occurred though not to a great extent. The use of tri-functional coagents e.g. trimethylopropane triacrylates (TRIS) with MA, led to high improvement of the grafting yield of MA on the polymers. This is almost certainly due to high free-radical activity of TRIS leading to copolymerisation of MA and TRIS which was followed by grafting of the copolymer onto the polymer backbone. In the case of PP, the use of coagent was also found to reduce the polymer degradation. PP/EPDM copolymers with optimum tensile properties were synthesised using a 'one-step' continues reactive processing procedure. This was achieved firstly by functionalisation of a mixture of PP (higher w/w ratio) and EPDM (low w/w ratio) with MA, in the presence of the coagent TRIS and a small concentration of a free radical initiator. This was then followed by an imidisation reaction with the interlinking agent hexamethylene diamine (HEMDA). Small amounts of copolymers, up to 5 phr, which were interlinked with up to 15 phr of HEMDA, were sufficient to compatibilise PP/EPDM75/25 blends resulting in excellent tensile properties compared to binary PP/EPDM 75/25 blend. Improvement in blend's compatibility and phases-stabilisation (observed through tensile and SEM analysis) was shown in all cases with significant interphases adhesion improvement between PP and EPDM, and reduction in domain size across the fractured surface indicating efficient distribution of the compatibiliser.