Logo JG-Universität MainzProf. Dr. Axel Müller


PhD Thesis

Development of Thermoplastic Elastomers with Improved Elastic Properties Based on Semicrystalline Block Copolymers

Holger Schmalz (01/2002-01/2002)

Support: Volker Abetz


In this work the synthesis and characterization of two novel types of thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs), exhibiting improved elastic properties compared to commercially available systems, is described. The first type comprises multiblock copoly(ether ester)s with semicrystalline hard segments and triblock copolymer soft segments. The second class of TPEs are systems based on ABA and ABC triblock copolymers with two glassy and one or two semicrystalline end blocks, respectively. The used strategy for increasing the elasticity of conventional copoly(ether ester)s based on poly(butylene terephthalate) (PBT) hard segments and polyether soft segments is the replacement of the continuous PBT hard phase in these systems by a disperse PBT hard phase. The incorporation of nonpolar segments is possible by using poly(ethylene oxide)-block-poly(ethylene-stat-butylene)-block-poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO-b-PEB-b-PEO) triblock copolymers, where the polar PEO blocks act as compatibilizer between the nonpolar PEB segments and the polar PBT segments during the melt polycondensation. The incorporated nonpolar PEB segments induce an enhanced microphase separation in the melt, which in turn results in the formation of a disperse PBT hard phase. Mechanical testing reveals a significantly improved elastic recovery compared to that of conventional copoly(ether ester)s exhibiting a continuous PBT hard phase. Morphological investigations reveal that this novel copoly(ether ester)s consist of a semicrystalline PBT hard phase and an amorphous soft segment phase, which is divided into a pure PEB phase, a PEO-rich phase besides a mixed PBT/PEO phase, and a pure amorphous PBT phase. The second part of this thesis deals with ABC triblock copolymers with one or two semicrystalline end blocks. Two main aspects were addressed: i) the interplay between morphology and crystallization, and ii) the comparison of ABA and ABC triblock copolymers with glassy (A), elastomeric (B) and crystalline (C) blocks. Several polyethylene-block-poly(ethylene-alt-propylene)-block-poly(ethylene oxide) (PE-b-PEP-b-PEO) triblock copolymers have been synthesized by sequential anionic polymerization of butadiene, isoprene, and ethylene oxide (PB-b-PI-b-PEO) followed by homogeneous catalytic hydrogenation. Anionic polymerization in a one-pot procedure was accomplished by using the phosphazene base t-BuP4, which enables the polymerization of ethylene oxide (EO) in the presence of Li+ counterions. Kinetic investigations on the EO polymerization reveal an unexpected induction period. It is concluded, that different factors contribute to the induction period, like break up of lithium alkoxide aggregates by t-BuP4, and chain length effects. Characterization of the PB-b-PI-b-PEO and PE-b-PEP-b-PEO triblock copolymers utilizing differential scanning calorimetry and special self-nucleation (SN) techniques reveals a strong influence of the confinement active during crystallization on the crystallization and SN behavior of the semicrystalline PEO and PE blocks. For low PEO contents large supercoolings are necessary to induce crystallization of PEO. Furthermore, the SN behavior of the PEO blocks is different compared to that of semicrystalline homopolymers, i. e. domain II (SN domain) is absent. This is a direct result of the confined crystallization of PEO within small isolated microdomains. In contrast, for the PE blocks a heterogeneous nucleation mechanism and the presence of all three SN domains, usually present in crystallizable homopolymers, is observed. In this case, PE crystallizes without any confinement from a homogeneous mixture of PE and PEP segments, which can be ascribed to their small segmental interaction parameter. In TPEs based on ABA triblock copolymers with two glassy end blocks, e. g. polystyrene-block-poly(ethylene-alt-propylene)-block-polystyrene (PS-b-PEP-b-PS), the middle block chains can either loop back into the same PS domain or form bridges between two different PS domains. However, only the bridges contribute to the elastic properties, which limits the elastic recovery of theses systems. The influence of a semicrystalline end block on the elastic properties has been investigated by comparison of PS-b-PEP-b-PE and the corresponding PS-b-PEP-b-PS triblock copolymers. For small elongations (< 300%) the PE containing triblock copolymers exhibit a significantly improved elastic recovery. This can be attributed to the increased bridge fraction induced by the immiscibility of the two different end blocks. In contrast, for high elongations (> 300%) the situation is reversed and the PS-b-PEP-b-PS triblock copolymers reveal better elastic properties. Obviously, glassy PS domains show a higher resistance against distortion compared to that of semicrystalline PE domains, especially at high strains.

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