What are polymers?
Polymers are materials made of long, repeating chains of molecules. The materials have distinctive properties, banking on the kind of molecules being bonded and how they are bonded. Some polymers are lean and stretch, like rubber and polyester, while others are thick and tough, like epoxies and glass. However, the most natural and synthetic polymers are made up of two or more varied kinds of monomers; such polymers are called copolymers.
There are three major categories of polymers – thermoplastics, thermosets, and elastomers. Polymers are utilized in nearly every area these days. Grocery bags, soda and water bottles, textile fibres, phones, computers, food packaging, auto parts, and toys all of them contain this substance. They are also highly used in even more sophisticated and complex technology and industries.
There are three kinds of classification under this class: natural, synthetic, and Semi-synthetic Polymers.
They are naturally occurring and are found in plants and animals. Examples of natural polymers include proteins, starch, DNA, cellulose, and rubber.
They have originated when naturally occurring polymers undergo a further chemical transformation. Examples of semi-synthetic polymers include cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate.
Synthetic polymers are human-made and come from petroleum. Examples include nylon, Teflon, epoxy, polyester, and polyethene.
What are polymer alloys? thermoplastic alloys
The procedure of mixing polymers with other polymers, chemical additives, inorganic fillers, and strengthening fibres has given the polymer scientist and engineer an effective tool to tailor-make materials for attaining specifically balanced mixtures of physical properties, with polished characteristics.
This flexibility of property manipulation is the primary reason for the variety of applications of polymeric substances.
Alloy Polymers form one category of such multicomponent polymer systems.
It is so important that the polymer blends and alloys market is anticipated to grow from USD 3.3 Billion in 2015 to USD 4.2 Billion by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.30% from 2015 to 2020.
The advancement of polymer alloy technology symbolizes polymer engineering’s role as a chain in translating science into exercise. The broad explanation of polymeric alloys comprises both physical and chemical modifications.
In contrast to copolymers, where strong covalent bonds bind the constituents, others adhere via weaker secondary intermolecular forces like van der Waals forces, dipole interaction or hydrogen bonding.
Grafting symbolizes a way to enhance compatibility between the different components of polymer alloys. It implicates chemical linking of a short side chain, that is compatible in terms of intermolecular attraction with one of the elements, on to the major chain of the other element.
One can also enhance the intermolecular linkages between a multi-component system’s constituent by generating network copolymers, which pertains to cross-linking one linear polymer with another by developing free radical sites on already formed polymers in the presence of a monomer.
Difference between polymer blends and polymer alloys
Polymer alloys are a category of polymer blends where another polymer’s addition is modified to deliver controlled morphology, and thus specific performance traits.
You can greatly revise the qualities of many plastics by blending or alloying two or more polymers. These phrases are repeatedly exploited interchangeably, but technically, blends are combinations that are not entirely compatible, and alloys are fully compatible. Polymer alloy comprises a distinct sub-class of polymer blend; nearly all high-performance engineering blends are alloys.
The term polymer alloy for a polymer blend is not encouraged, as the former phrase contains multiphase copolymers but omits incompatible polymer blends.
Alloys are polymer mixtures that depict a single phase. In broad terms, the properties of a blend are the average of the individual elements’ traits, while alloys reflect a new and differentiated bunch of properties.
Differentiate polymer blends and alloys
A polymer blend, or polymer mixture, is a unit of a group of substances similar to metal alloys. At least two polymers are combined to formulate a new material with many distinct physical properties. Polymer blends can be utilized as thermoplastic elastomers also.
The polymer blend is a macroscopically homogeneous combination of two or more polymers (homopolymers or copolymers) blended to formulate a new substance with various physical properties. These blends are extensively researched because of their academic and practical significance. They are used in numerous applications, and it has been totalled that roughly 30% of all polymers are peddled as a kind of polymer blend material.
Polymer blends have increased implication because of the capacity to alter their mechanical traits (e.g., rubber toughening) and modify properties for other specific applications (e.g., applications of biopolymers in food packaging).
The new polymers transformation procedure is founded on a simple mechanical mix of two polymers first occurred when Thomas Hancock got one mixture of natural rubber with gutta-percha. This method produced a new polymer class called “polymer blends”.
Polymer blends are largely distributed into three categories:
- Immiscible polymer blends (heterogeneous polymer blends): This is by far the most widely known group. If the blend is prepared from two polymers, you will examine two glass transition temperatures.
- Compatible polymer blends: Immiscible polymer blend that shows macroscopically consistent physical properties. The macroscopically uniform properties are generally due to adequate strong interactions between the component polymers.
- Miscible polymer blends (homogeneous polymer blend): Polymer blend which has a single-phase layout. In this case, one glass transition temperature will be scrutinized.
Here are some examples of miscible polymer blends:
- polyphenylene oxide (PPO) – polystyrene (PS)
- polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)
- poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) – polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF)
- polypropylene (PP) – EPDM
- polycarbonate (PC) – acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS): Bayblend, Pulse, Anjablend
Preparation of polymer alloys
Most polymer pairs are immiscible, and thus, their compounds are not created spontaneously. Furthermore, the phase configuration of polymer blends depends on the procedure of their preparation. Five varied techniques are wielded for the making of polymer blends:
- melt mixing
- solution blending
- latex mixing
- partial block or graft polymerization
- preparation of interpenetrating polymer networks
An Interpenetrating Polymer Network (IPN) are two or more polymers in a mesh form, at least one of which is synthesized and cross-linked in the other’s immediate presence.
You can differentiate this from polymer blends, blocks, or grafts in two ways:
(1) an IPN swell, insoluble in solvents, and (2) trickle and flow are repressed.
Melt mixing is the most extensively used procedure of polymer blend preparation in practice. The blend components are combined in the molten state in extruders or batch mixers and then a new polymer blend.
Solution blending is often employed for preparation of polymer blends on a laboratory scale. The blend components are liquefied in a universal solvent and stirred. The blend is segregated by condensation or evaporation of the solvent. Benefits of the procedure are quick mixing of the solution without the substantial power consumption and the capacity to prevent unfavourable chemical reactions.
Some novel solid-state processing techniques, such as shear pulverization or cryogenic mechanical alloying, have been formulated to furnish good mixing of polymer blends. The polymers are crumbled in pulverizes at cryogenic temperatures, and nanoscale blend morphologies are accomplished.
Commonly, blending methods are:
1- Mechanical blending- most inexpensive
2- Dissolution in co-solvent, film casting, freeze or spray drying
3- Latex stirring
4- Fine powder blending
5- Usage of monomer(s) as a solvent for another element
Advanced Polymer Alloys
Advanced polymers are utilized for many BPO (Biocompatible Osteoconductive Polymers) components in low-temperature fuel cells. In contrast, stainless steel alloys are the best materials for BOP in fuel cells operating above 150 °C.
Corrosive liquid streams frequently containing acids, alkalis or molten salts, fuel streams comprising hydrogen, CO, hydrocarbons and poisons such as sulphur solutions, high operation temperatures (for example in SOFCs and MCFCs and fuel reformers), temperature gradients and rapid temperature modifications pose significant challenges for materials choice to accomplish commercially viable fuel cell commodities (reliability and cost).
Polymer Alloy Physical Properties
Polymeric materials with desirable properties for modern technical applications are attained by incorporating prevailing polymers, while the synthesis of fresh monomers has ebbed to a great extent. These polymer mixtures or “alloys” are distinguished by their chemical configuration, the conformation of the chain molecules, and the morphology, i.e. the state of order at supramolecular degree.
The multiphase constitution is a typical quality of these materials, with a strong impact on their macroscopic characteristics. The morphology of multiphase polymer alloys can be regulated to a restricted extent through their elements’ chemical composition when homopolymers are blended in the melt or as dispersions.
On the other hand, Graft copolymerization makes it probable to accomplish the wanted morphology at a given chemical composition. Furthermore, one can collect translucent two‐phase polymer alloys under specific circumstances. In multiphase polymers, the deduction of stress without fracture, caused by mechanical loading will be dealt with using models. Distinct assortments of characteristics such as hardness and toughness are related to the coexistence of disperse and continuous phases.
Equilibrium thermodynamic standards for liquid mixtures will be wielded to elucidate on demixing phenomena in polymers. It has become possible to deduce the chain conformation experimentally employing neutron scattering procedure in the last few years.
PC-based blends and alloys mainly monopolize the market because of its qualities like corrosion-resistant, dielectric stability, and thermal resistance. Polymer blends and alloys are employed in numerous applications due to their physical and mechanical properties such as lightweight, heat resistance, durability, chemical stability, thermal stability, recyclability, and dimensional strength.
Specific polymers have come to be deemed as basic building blocks of the polyblends. For example:
- Impact strength may be enhanced by utilizing polycarbonate, ABS and polyurethanes.
- Heat resistance is enhanced by wielding polyphenylene oxide, polysulphone, PVC, polyester (PET and PBT) and acrylic.
- Barrier properties are refined by utilizing plastics such as ethylene-vinyl alcohol (EVA).
Some modern polymer alloys and their main characteristics are given below:-
- PVC/acrylic- Tough with decent flame and chemical resistance
- PVC/ABS- Effortlessly processed with good consequence and flame resistance
- Polycarbonate/ABS- Hard with high heat contortion temperature and good notch impact endurance
- ABS/Polysulfone- Inexpensive than fundamental polysulfone
- Polyphenylene oxide/HIPS- Improved processability, reduced cost
- SAN/olefin- Good weatherability
- Nylon/elastomer- Enhanced notched impact strength.
- Modified amorphous nylon- Easily processed with impressive surface finish and toughness
- Polycarbonate/PBT- Hard and durable engineering plastic
Kinetic polymer alloy
It uses nanotechnology to lengthen and dwindle aramid fibres down to where cross-sections are about one Billionth of an inch thick and then encases them in a high-end polymer. It nearly comes out with an aramid fibre shell encased in a polymer.
It is most commonly used in making protection units or helmets.
Examples of Polymer Alloy
Polymer alloys are a class of polymer blends where the second polymer’s addition is conformed to provide regulated morphology and thus certain performance qualities. Some of the widely known examples of polymer alloys are:-
Polymethyl methacrylate, Polyurethane, Low-Density Polyethene /High-Density Polyethene, Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, Polybutylene terephthalate,
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, Styrene acrylonitrile resin etc.
Compatibilization of polymer alloys
Compatibilization in polymer chemistry adds material to an immiscible blend of polymers that will boost their strength. Coarse, volatile phase morphologies generally characterize polymer blends. This results in impoverished mechanical properties.
Polymer blends are combinations of two or more polymers that are very often immiscible components, and they have to be compatibilize.
The compatibilization must attain:
- Optimization of the interfacial tension.
- Steady the morphology against high pressures during forming.
- Increase adhesion between the phases in the solid-state.
Compatibilization is achieved either by addition of a compatibilizer or by reactive processing.
Compatibilizing the system will make a more reliable and better-blended phase morphology of the polymer alloy by developing intercourses between the two once immiscible polymers. Not only does this improve the mechanical properties of the blend, but it frequently results in properties that are normally not feasible in either of the single pure elements.
Block, or graft copolymers are normally utilized as compatibilizing agents. The copolymer used is formed of the two elements in the immiscible blend. The copolymer’s respective fractions can interact with the two degrees of the blend to make the phase morphology more durable.
The heightened strength is induced by curtailing the size of the phase-separated particles in the blend. The size deduction comes from the lower interfacial tension, due to amassing block copolymers at the many interfaces between the two copolymers.
This facilitates the immiscible blends breaking up into tinier grains in the melt phase. In turn, these phase-separated particles will not be as stooped to strengthen and accumulate because the interfacial friction is now much lesser. This establishes the polymer blend as a usable product. A representation of such type is Ethylene propylene copolymers.
They can behave as decent compatibilizing agents for blends of polypropylene and low-density polyethene. In this particular application, longer ethylene sequences are wanted in the copolymer. This is because co-crystallization also factors into this case, and the lengthy ethylene sequences will preserve some residual crystallinity.
Reactive compatibilization is a method in which immiscible polymer blends are compatibilized by developing copolymers in the mixture or melt state. Copolymers are forged when the adequate functional groups in each component of the immiscible blend interact in the compatibilization procedure.
These interactions comprise hydrogen, ionic or covalent bonding. The functional groups that induce these interactions can be the end groups existing in the blend polymers (e.g., carboxylic acids or alcohols on polyesters, or amine groups on nylons).
Polymer Alloy Blend and Nanocomposites
The evolution of polymer nanocomposites has been a region of high scientific and industrial interest in the current years, due to numerous modifications accomplished in these materials due to the combination of a polymeric matrix and, usually, an inorganic nanomaterial.
Polymer nanocomposites contain a polymer or copolymer having nanoparticles or nanofillers scattered in the polymer matrix. These may be of varied contour, but at least one dimension must be in the span of 1–50 nm.
An example of a nano polymer is silicon nanospheres that exhibit relatively distinct characteristics; their size is 40–100 nm. They are much tougher than silicon, their hardness being between that of sapphire and diamond.
Those substances’ enhanced performance can comprise mechanical stability, toughness and immobility, electrical and thermal conductivity, superior flame retardancy, and a high barrier to moisture and gases.
Nanocomposites can also exhibit unique design possibilities, which offer excellent benefits in developing functional materials with desired qualities for particular applications. The likelihood of utilizing natural resources and being environmentally friendly has also given rise to fresh opportunities for applications.
Also, Dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) measurements indicated that the nanocomposites’ storage modulus was more than the binary blends in the entire temperature range surveyed, ascribed to a synergistic effect of their improved crystallinity and the high rigidity.
This study opens up new viewpoints to formulate novel polymer blend hybrid nanocomposites that exhibit considerable potential for biomedical application.
The future probabilities and aspects of polymer alloys
There is a likelihood of building ordered collections of nanoparticles in the polymer matrix. Many chances also prevail to develop the nanocomposite circuit boards. An even more impressive technique exists to utilize polymer nanocomposites for neural networks applications.
Another favourable region of advancement is optoelectronics and optical computing. The single-domain nature and superparamagnetic behaviour of nanoparticles, including ferromagnetic metals, could be perhaps employed for magneto-optical storage media manufacturing.
Applications of Polymer blends and alloys
The use of polymer alloys for economic benefits is not new. Blends of rubber have been used for numerous years now in various industries in which a dispersed rubber phase is integrated to improve ductility and impact resistance.
Since their extensive commercialization, polymer blends and alloys have been directed at the replacement of conventional materials, most typically, metals. Although plastic raw materials can be more expensive than metals on a weight basis, they are often more reasonable when the final manufactured cost is considered.
This is because plastic parts can unify many purposes into fewer parts. They usually need less complex assembly (e.g., they are amenable to snap fitting and ultrasonic welding) and can be handily formed (by injection moulding) into complex finished shapes, even integrating textured high gloss surfaces. In use, they are extra corrosion resistant and lighter in weight than metals, which is particularly crucial for fuel economy in automotive applications.
Some of the examples of uses of polymer alloys are:-
- Blends of PPE and PA-66 are suitable for exterior automotive uses. They produce class “A” surface on body panes because they incorporate the processing solvent-resistance of polyamides with the moisture resistance and dimensional PPE strength.
- Polymer alloys are increasingly being utilized in engineering applications, such as bearings, pump impellers, valves, electrical components, gears etc., which conventionally have been the realm of metals.
- Different applications lately proposed for polymer alloys encompass immobilization of enzymes, permselective membranes, reverse osmosis membranes, selective ion‐exchange systems, and medical applications utilizing polyelectrolyte complexes.
- The blending of polymers is becoming increasingly crucial in packaging applications to improve properties, improve processing, or lower expense.
Present consumption and demand for Polymer blends and alloys
Currently, Asia-Pacific is the biggest buyer of polymer blends and alloys. China and Japan are significant clients of polymer alloys. Asia-Pacific and Europe are the most competitive and active markets in terms of strategic ambitions and endeavours, owing to their emerging and mature market demand. Some of the aspects for the market growth are:- superior-users industry expansion, amplified local manufacturing, and a high percentage of domestic players in vertical market segments, for example, automotive applications.
In Asia, the recent financial boom has heightened construction, electronics, and automotive sectors, which will eventually help boost the demand for polymer alloys in the country.
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