Characterization of block copolymers and polymer blends by inverse gas chromatography

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The accuracy and utility of using Inverse Gas Chromatography (IGC) to characterize the microphase structure of block copolymers, and the strength of the thermodynamic interactions between the components of polymer blends and the unlike segments of block copolymers was examined. There were three parts to the study. First, the Scott ternary solution model, which is used for the study of thermodynamic interactions in polymer blends, was extended to low molecular weight mixtures. From vapor-liquid equilibrium data in the literature, the Gibbs free energy of mixing of binary mixtures (GM ) calculated with the model were compared to experimental values. Mixtures containing ketones, aromatics hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons, alcohols and water were studied. With the exception of mixtures containing water and low molecular weight alcohols, a fair to good correlation between theoretical and experimental values was observed. Second, the Gibbs free energy of mixing of nitrocellulose, polyvinyl chloride and poly(vinylidene fluoride) containing blends were measured with the Scott model from IGC data. For the nitrocellulose containing blend, the calculated Gibbs free energy of mixing values were large in magnitude (-2.0 to -5.0 calories/gram) and in fair agreement with the experimental heats of mixing determined from microcalorimetry measurements. For the remaining blends, the IGC data could not be distinguished from the results normally obtained for immiscible blends. The calculated GM values were small in magnitude relative to the experimental error of the quantities. Concerning the block copolymers, the relative incompatibility of the constituent blocks of perfectly alternating block copolymers of polydimethylsiloxane and bis-A-polycarbonate and styrene-isoprene-styrene triblock copolymers was reflected in the measured GM values. Overall, it was concluded that IGC is a good method for characterizing thermodynamic interaction between blend and copolymer constituents, but a severe limitation of the method is that the interactions are often too weak to measure accurately.

Finally, the microphase structure of the above copolymers were studied by IGC from the retention behavior of hydrocarbon probes below the upper glass transition temperature of the copolymers. The degree of microphase separation, the size of the hard phases and the continuity of the soft phases in the copolymers characterized, and the results obtained were consistent with small angle x-ray, electron microscopy and differential scanning calorimetry data on the same materials.