Structure/property relationships of commercial propylene/1-pentene random copolymers

Lutz, Marietjie (2006-03)

Thesis (PhD (Chemistry and Polymer Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Propylene/1-pentene random copolymers are a relatively new family of random copolymers being prepared by Sasol Polymers and reveals high impact strength, good tensile properties, excellent optical properties, good rheological properties and a large pool of processing possibilities. These commercial copolymers are being prepared with stereospecific heterogeneous Ziegler-Natta catalytic systems containing multiple active sites and therefore producing copolymers with a varying degree of stereoregularity. Two different groups of propylene/1-pentene random copolymers were received by Sasol Polymers and investigated in this project. The first group (Group 1, Polymers A - F) consisted of six totally different batches of commercial propylene/1-pentene copolymers which were produced by different catalyst systems. All had different melt flow indices (MFIs) and different 1-pentene contents and all of the copolymers, except for one, were nucleated. The second group (Group 2, Polymers G - J) were produced by the same catalyst, but with varying donor:catalyst ratios and also differing in their 1-pentene content. Investigation of the Group 1 copolymers was used in order to construct a “molecular toolbox” which was then used to study the Group 2 copolymers. The original commercial copolymers were all studied by various analytical techniques: high-temperature carbon thirteen nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (13C-NMR), high-temperature gel permeation chromatoghraphy (HT-GPC), crystallization analysis fractionation (CRYSTAF), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), wide angle X-ray diffraction (WAXD) and positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS). The random copolymers were all fractionated by preparative TREF and the fractions analyzed utilizing the following analytical techniques: 13C-NMR, HT-GPC, CRYSTAF and DSC. The results of these analyses were used to investigate inter alia the distribution of 1-pentene in the copolymers. In order to investigate the low molecular weight material of the copolymers, which were part of the room temperature fraction during TREF, solvent extractions were carried out using different solvents and different extraction techniques. A complete structural analysis study was carried out on the extracts. The percentages of xylene-solubles were also determined during the quantitative xylene extraction study of the copolymers. Characterization of the xylene non-soluble material was carried out using 13C-NMR, HT-GPC, CRYSTAF, DSC and WAXD in order to compare the properties of the unextracted copolymers with the material after removal of the xylene soluble fraction. Positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS) was used as an alternative investigation method for the Group 1 copolymers and their XNS fractions in order to determine what type of information this novel analytical method could generate and how the results compared with those of previous PALS studies on poly-olefins. A new fractionation technique, preparative solution fractionation (SF), was developed and evaluated. The commercial propylene/1-pentene copolymers were fractionated using this novel technique, the fractions were analyzed by 13C-NMR, HT-GPC, CRYSTAF and DSC and the results were compared with previously existing fractionation methods, namely TREF and CRYSTAF. A final study was done on the random copolymers by blending one of the commercial Ziegler-Natta catalyzed propylene/1-pentene copolymers with a tailored, low 1-pentene content, metallocene propylene/1-pentene copolymer in different ratios. The blends were analyzed by molecular weight, thermal and crystal phase analysis in order to investigate the effect of the tailored, highly isotactic propylene/1-pentene copolymer on the properties the commercial random copolymers. Throughout the project the influence of the 1-pentene as well as the donor:catalyst ratio on the copolymers was investigated. This study, in its entirety, therefore allow a better understanding of the effects that the commercial, heterogeneous, transition metal catalysts have on the make up of the copolymers and, by extension, the ultimate properties of the materials.

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