A study of the deformation-induced whitening phenomenon for cavitating and non-cavitating semicrystalline polymers



In this work, we used two techniques to study the deformation-induced whitening phenomenon that occurs when certain semicrystalline polymers (SCPs) are subjected to tensile drawing: (1) IPLST (Incoherent Polarized Steady Light Transport) was used for characterizing the light scatterers and in particular for determining their size. (2) SRXTM (Synchrotron Radiation X-Ray Tomographic Microscopy) was used to visualize the internal structure of the deformed SCPs. In particular, with this technique the possible presence of micrometric cavities can be detected. In the early whitening stage of a cavitating polypropylene (PP), the IPLST technique was found to show that the size of the light scatterers is larger than 1 μm. At the same time, the SRXTM measurements showed that no void larger than 1 μm was present in the material. The micrometric light scatterers responsible for the whitening phenomenon may thus not be simple cavities. In fact, this experimental study suggests that they correspond to areas where smaller objects (possibly nanovoids) are highly confined. At the scale of visible wavelengths, these regions could scatter visible light like individual entities of micrometric size. The study also showed that the size of cavities observable using SRXTM for a very deformed PP is dependent on the initial dimensions of the spherulites. Results previously obtained for a non-cavitating high density polyethylene are also briefly presented in this article to confirm the theory that deformation-induced-whitening phenomenon may have various origins for such complex microstructuring. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys., 2013