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Polypropylene/polyethylene blends as models for high-impact propylene–ethylene copolymers, part 1: Interaction between rheology and morphology



In this work, composition effects on interfacial tension and morphology of binary polyolefin blends were studied using rheology and electron microscopy. The amount of dispersed phase (5–30 wt %) and its type [ethylene–octene copolymer, linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), and high-density polyethylene] was varied, and the influence of different matrix materials was also studied by using a polypropylene homopolymer and a ethylene–propylene (EP) random copolymer. The particle size distribution of the blends was determined using micrographs from transmission electron microscopy (TEM). A clear matrix effect on the flow behavior could be found from the viscosity curves of the blends. Analyzing the viscosity of the blends applying the logarithmic mixing rule indicated a partial miscibility of the EP random copolymer with low amounts of the LLDPE in the melt. Micrographs from TEM also showed a clear difference in morphology if the base polymer is changed, with PE lamellae growing out of the inclusions or being present directly embedded in the matrix. To verify these findings, the interfacial tension was determined. The applicability of Palierne's emulsion model was found to be limited for such complex systems, whereas Gramespacher–Meissner analysis led to interfacial tensions comparable with those already reported in the literature. The improved compatibility when changing the matrix polymer from the homopolymer to the random copolymer allows the development of multiphase materials with finer phase structure, which will also result in improved mechanical and optical performance. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci., 2013