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Control of Nano-Scale Structuring and Reinforcement in Rotational Molding of Polyethylene

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Abstract

Polyethylene (PE) resins used for Rotational Molding have usually particle sizes less than 0.8 mm and used as powders or micro-pellets. During heating in a rotating mould, these particles get fused and merge into one piece. A disadvantage of the rotomolding process is long cycle times that affect the production rate and increase thermal degradation of the polymer. One of the problems in rotomolding is bubbles of gasses trapped during sintering of the PE powders which reduce mechanical strength of the article produced. We propose to use reacting mixtures of PEG with citric acid as Processing Additive (PA) to rotomolding grades of PE. Silica fume and vinyl-silanes can be other ingredients of the additive package. The PA accelerates sintering of the PE particulates and greatly reduces number of bubbles in the melt but at high concentrations it impedes flow of the particles. Powders are characterized by low flowability while micro-pellets have too high flowability for rotomolding. To improve the rotomolding process we propose to fabricate micro-pellets by extrusion of PE resins comprising the PA at reduced temperatures and pelletizing in open air. The same PA reduces extrusion pressure and suppresses flow instabilities during pelletizing as well as adjusts flowability of micro-pellets to optimum, accelerates sintering of the PE particulates and removes bubbles from the PE melt. Mechanisms of the observed improvements are discussed.

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