The chemical modification of polymer blends by reactive processing

  • Kevin J. Artus

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The primary objective of this research was to examine the concepts of the chemical modification of polymer blends by reactive processing using interlinking agents (multi-functional, activated vinyl compounds; trimethylolpropane triacrylates {TRIS} and divinylbenzene {DVD}) to target in-situ interpolymer formation between immiscible polymers in PS/EPDM blends via peroxide-initiated free radical reactions during melt mixing. From a comprehensive survey of previous studies of compatibility enhancement in polystyrene blends, it was recognised that reactive processing offers opportunities for technological success that have not yet been fully realised; learning from this study is expected to assist in the development and application of this potential.
In an experimental-scale operation for the simultaneous melt blending and reactive processing of both polymers, involving manual injection of precise reactive agent/free radical initiator mixtures directly into molten polymer within an internal mixer, torque changes were distinct, quantifiable and rationalised by ongoing physical and chemical effects. EPDM content of PS/EPDM blends was the prime determinant of torque increases on addition of TRIS, itself liable to self-polymerisation at high additions, with little indication of PS reaction in initial reactively processed blends with TRIS, though blend compatibility, from visual assessment of morphology by SEM, was nevertheless improved. Suitable operating windows were defined for the optimisation of reactive blending, for use once routes to encourage PS reaction could be identified.
The effectiveness of PS modification by reactive processing with interlinking agents was increased by the selection of process conditions to target specific reaction routes, assessed by spectroscopy (FT-IR and NMR) and thermal analysis (DSC) coupled dichloromethane extraction and fractionation of PS. Initiator concentration was crucial in balancing desired PS modification and interlinking agent self-polymerisation, most particularly with TRIS. Pre-addition of initiator to PS was beneficial in the enhancement of TRIS binding to PS and minimisation of modifier polymerisation; believed to arise from direct formation of polystyryl radicals for addition to active unsaturation in TRIS. DVB was found to be a "compatible" modifier for PS, but its efficacy was not quantified.
Application of routes for PS reaction in PS/EPDM blends was successful for in-situ
formation of interpolymer (shown by sequential solvent extraction combined with FT-IR and DSC analysis); the predominant outcome depending on the degree of reaction of each component, with optimum "between-phase" interpolymer formed under conditions selected for equalisation of differing component reactivities and avoidance of competitive processes. This was achieved for combined addition of TRIS+DVB at optimum initiator concentrations with initiator pre-addition to PS. Improvements in blend compatibility (by tensiles, SEM and thermal analysis) were shown in all cases with significant interpolymer formation, though physical benefits were not; morphology and other reactive effects were also important factors. Interpolymer from specific "between-phase" reaction of blend
components and interlinking agent was vital for the realisation of positive performance on compatibilisation by the chemical modification of polymer blends by reactive processing.
Date of AwardOct 1994
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSahar Al-Malaika (Supervisor)


  • polymer blends
  • reactive processing
  • polystyrene
  • interlinking agents
  • EPDM
  • polymer modification
  • compatibilisation
  • interpolymer

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