A permanganic etchant for polyolefines

R.H. Olley, A.M. Hodge, D.C. Bassett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A permanganic etchant has been developed which reveals lamellar and other fine detail in surfaces of at least three crystalline polyolefines, viz., polyethylene (of both high and low density), isotactic polypropylene, and isotactic poly(4-methylpentene-1). In typical treatments of high-density polyethylene ca. 2 μm of material is removed with defective regions suffering preferential attack. The etchant also discriminates between lamellar orientations, eating deeper where side surfaces of laminae are exposed than on fold surfaces, and between different polymers, attacking isotactic polypropylene more strongly than polyethylene. Comparison with other techniques authenticates the detail exposed and samples appear to be otherwise unaltered by their treatment. Besides normal imaging, it is also possible to use etched samples for transmission diffraction studies in the electron microscope. The method has very considerable application for revealing lamellar details in crystalline polyolefines (which can be chosen to be representative or selective according to the nature of the surface used). Examples are given of a wide variety of melt-crystallized morphologies for the three polymers cited and also of lamellae in a drawn polyethylene sample. It is pointed out that permanganic etching is complementary to the technique of chlorosulfonation used to stain polyethylene in a similar way as bright field microscopy is to dark field
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-643
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Polymer Science: Part B - Polymer Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1979


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