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Keywords:

  • ternary blend;
  • poly(lactic acid);
  • crystallinity;
  • wide angle X-ray scattering;
  • phase diagram

Abstract

The application of a rapid screening method for the construction of ternary phase diagrams is described for the first time, providing detailed visualization of phase boundaries in solvent-mediated blends. Our new approach rapidly identifies ternary blend compositions that afford optically clear materials, useful for applications where transparent films are necessary. The use of 96-well plates and a scanning plate reader has enabled rapid optical characterization to be carried out by transmission spectrophotometry (450 nm), whilst the nature and extent of crystallinity was examined subsequently by wide angle X-ray scattering (WAXS). The moderating effect of cellulose acetate butyrate can be visualized as driving the position of the phase boundaries in poly(l-lactic acid)/polycaprolactone (PLLA/PCL) blends. More surprisingly, the boundaries are critically dependent on the molecular weight of the crystallizable PLLA and PCL, with higher molecular weight polymers leading to blends with reduced phase separation. On the other hand, the propensity to crystallize was more evident in shorter chains. WAXS provides a convenient way of characterizing the contribution of the individual blend components to the crystalline regions across the range of blend compositions.© 2013 Society of Chemical Industry