The processing of microcomposites based on polypropylene and two thermotropic liquid crystalline polymers in injection molding, sheet extrusion, and extrusion blow molding

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Virginia Tech


This work is concerned with the processing of pellets of polypropylene (PP) containing pregenerated microfibrils of thermotropic liquid crystal polymers (TLCPs), referred to as microcomposites. The processing methods used are injection molding, sheet extrusion, and extrusion blow molding. The TLCPs used are HX6000 and Vectra A950. The microcomposites are produced by drawing strands of PP and TLCPs generated by means of a novel mixing technique and pelletizing the strands. The work was undertaken in an effort to improve on the properties observed for in situ composites in which the TLCP fibrils are generated in elongational flow fields that occur during processing. In situ composites usually exhibit highly anisotropic mechanical properties and the properties do not reflect the full reinforcing potential of the TLCP fibers. Factors considered include the effect of in situ composite strand properties on the properties of the injection molded composite, the melt temperature used in injection molding, TLCP concentration, and the melt temperature of the TLCP.

It was found in this work that microcomposites can be processed by means of injection molding, sheet extrusion, and extrusion blow molding. It was necessary to process the materials at low temperatures to maintain the TLCP fibrils. However, HX6000, the higher melting TLCP allowed higher processing temperatures than Vectra A. When the TLCP fibrils were maintained, the properties of the TLCP reinforced composites did show reduced anisotropy as compared to an in situ composite. The tensile strength of the composites produced by all three methods was about equal. The modulus of the injection molded composites was slightly higher than that of the composite sheets, but the composite sheets showed a lower degree of anisotropy. In all three processing methods the modulus of the TLCP reinforced composite was a function of the modulus of the in situ composite strand used to produce the microcomposite. Therefore, it is recommended that to improve the properties of the microcomposites the properties of the in situ composite strands should be improved. Furthermore, the mechanical properties of the composites increased with increasing TLCP composition.

To provide a basis of comparison the properties of the extruded sheets and the injection molded composites were compared to both the predictions of composite theory and the properties of glass reinforced composites. It was found that the modulus of the 10 wt% composites approached the predictions of composite theory, but at higher TLCP loadings the modulus showed negative deviations from the predictions of composite theory. This is believed to be the result of a reduction of fiber aspect ratio due to poor fiber distribution and fiber breakup. The modulus of the TLCP reinforced composites was about the same as the modulus of the glass reinforced composites produced by both sheet extrusion and injection molding. The tensile strengths were slightly lower than that of the glass reinforced composites. It is expected that as the modulus and strength of the reinforcing TLCP fibrils are improved the properties of the TLCP reinforced composites should exceed those of glass reinforced composites. It was concluded that the processing of microcomposites is a viable means of producing composites based on TLCPs and thermoplastics with good mechanical properties and low degrees of mechanical anisotropy.