Structure, processing and performance of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (IUPAC Technical Report). Part 2: crystallinity and supra molecular structure
AbstractTest methods including OM, SEM, TEM, DSC, SAXS, WAXS, and IR were used to characterise supra-molecular structure in three batches of polyethylene (PE), which had weight-average relative molar masses ¯¯¯¯Mw of approximately 0.6 × 106, 5 × 106, and 9 × 106. They were applied to compression mouldings made by the polymer manufacturer. Electron microscopy showed that powders formed in the polymerization reactor consisted of irregularly shaped grains between 50 and 250 μm in diameter. Higher magnification revealed that each grain was an aggregate, composed of particles between 0.4 and 0.8 μm in diameter, which were connected by long, thin fibrils. In compression mouldings, lamellar thicknesses ranged from 7 to 23 nm. Crystallinity varied between 70 and 75 % in reactor powder, but was lower in compression mouldings. Melting peak temperatures ranged from 138 to 145 °C, depending on processing history. DMTA showed that the glass transition temperature θ g was −120 °C for all three grades of polyethylene. IR spectroscopy found negligibly small levels of oxidation and thermal degradation in mouldings. Optical microscopy revealed the presence of visible fusion defects at grain boundaries. It is concluded that relatively weak defects can be characterized using optical microscopy, but there is a need for improved methods that can detect less obvious fusion defects.