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Abstract

The process parameters for production of solid-state microcellular polycarbonate using subcritical CO2 were explored. Sufficiently long foaming times were used to produce foams, where cell growth had completed, resulting in steady-state structures. A wide range of foaming temperatures and saturation pressures below the critical pressure of CO2 were investigated, establishing the steady state process space for this polymer–gas system. Processing conditions are presented that produce polycarbonate foams where both the foam density and the average cell size can be controlled. The process space showed that we could produce foams at a constant density, while varying the cell size by and order of magnitude. At a relative density of 0.5, the average cell size could be varied from 4 to 40 μm. The ability to produce such a family of foams opens the possibility to explore the effect of microstructure, like cell size on the properties of cellular materials. It was found that the minimum foaming temperature for a given concentration of CO2, determined from the process space, agrees well with the predicted glass transition temperature of the gas–polymer solution. A characterization of the average cell size, cell size distribution, and cell nucleation density for this system is also reported. POLYM. ENG. SCI., 2010. © 2010 Society of Plastics Engineers