A new technique for foaming submicron size poly(methyl methacrylate) particles



About 0.7–2 μm diameter poly (methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) foamed particles were prepared via thermally induced phase separation (TIPS) from a PMMA/ethanol mixture and vacuum dried. It was found that ethanol, known to be a poor solvent to PMMA, could dissolve PMMA when the temperature was over 60°C. The solubility of PMMA (Mw = 15,000 and Mw = 120,000) in ethanol was measured and was found to increase as the temperature increased. PMMA particles on the scale of submicron and single micron diameter could be precipitated from the PMMA/ethanol solution by temperature quenching. Then, since the precipitated particles contained a certain amount of ethanol, the precipitated particles could be foamed using the ethanol as a foaming agent in a vacuum drying process. Vacuum drying at temperatures slightly below the glass transition temperature of the polymer could make the particles foam. The effects of foaming temperature and the molecular weight of the polymer on the size of foamed particles were investigated. The experimental results showed that the vapor pressure and the molecular weight of the polymer are key factors determining the expandability of the micro particles. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 2007