Fundamental foaming mechanisms governing the volume expansion of extruded polypropylene foams



This article describes the fundamental foaming mechanisms that governed the volume expansion behavior of extruded polypropylene (PP) foams. A careful analysis of extended experimental results indicated that the final volume expansion ratio of the extruded PP foams blown with butane was governed by either the loss of the blowing agent or the crystallization of the polymer matrix. A charge coupling device (CCD) camera was installed at the die exit to carefully monitor the shape of the extruded PP foams. The CCD images were analyzed to illustrate both mechanisms, gas loss and crystallization, during foaming at various temperatures, and the maximum expansion ratio was achieved when the governing mechanism was changed from one to the other. In general, the gas loss mode was dominant at high temperatures and the crystallization mode was dominant at low temperatures. When the gas loss mode was dominant, the volume expansion ratio increased with decreasing temperature because of the reduced amount of gas lost. By contrast, when the crystallization mode was dominant, the expansion ratio increased with increasing temperature because of the delayed solidification of the polymer. The processing window variation with the butane concentration, the change in the temperature ranges for the two governing modes, and the sensitivity of melt temperature variations to the volume expansion ratio are discussed in detail on the basis of the obtained experimental results for both branched and linear PP materials. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 91: 2661–2668, 2004