Effect of compatibilizer addition on the surface nucleation of dispersed polyethylene droplets in a self-nucleated polypropylene matrix
Coba Daza, Jorge Sebastián
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Polymer 263 : (2023) // Article ID 125511
A significant portion of the global plastics market encompasses the production of polyolefin materials and especially polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE), as commodity polymers with a wide range of applications. However, the increase in the generation of unsustainable plastic waste requires a close technological look-up to address this challenge adequately. In this context, mechanical recycling is part of the strategies expected to contribute to the solution. Nevertheless, the melt blending process presents a challenge due to the immiscibility between PP and PE. Therefore, compatibilization strategies are meant to solve the problem effectively. In this paper, we employ a commercial ethylene-ran-methyl acrylate random copolymer as a compatibilizer for PP/PE blends. With the addition of the compatibilizer, it was possible to obtain a 44% reduction in PE domain size, while ductility increased by around similar to 40% with respect to uncompatibilized blends. Interesting results were obtained concerning the crystallization behavior of the blends. The overall isothermal crystallization kinetics of the different blend components was studied, and a synergistic nucleation effect of the PP and the compatibilizer toward the PE phase was found. For the first time, the effect of the compatibilizer on the surface nucleation of PE in a self-nucleated PP matrix phase is reported. An enhancement in the crystallization rate of PE was found when the self-nucleation protocol was applied to the polypropylene matrix phase for neat and compatibilized blends. The nucleation efficiency was in the range of 120-124%, indicating a supernucleation behavior. The induced crystallization at the interface by the self-nucleated polypropylene is the reason for such high nucleation efficiencies. Surprisingly, a higher amount of compatibilizer decreases the overall crystallization rate of PE droplets. The compatibilizer segregates at the interface between both polymers, reducing the surface nucleation of the PE droplets on the PP matrix phase. The results presented in this paper lead the way toward improving the use of post-consumer recycled materials.