Crystallization Behavior, Tailored Microstructure, and Structure-Property Relationships of Poly(Ether Ketone Ketone) and Polyolefins

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Virginia Tech


This work investigates the influence of microstructure and cooling and heating rates on the physical and chemical properties of fast crystallizing polymers. The primary objectives were to 1) utilize advanced methodologies to accurately determine the fundamental thermodynamic value of equilibrium melting temperature (Tmo) for the semi-crystalline polymer poly(ether ketone ketone) (PEKK), 2) increase understanding of the influence of microstructure (random versus blocky) of functionalized semi-crystalline polymers on physical and chemical properties, and 3) understand the influence of additive manufacturing process parameters on semi-crystalline polymer crystallization and final properties. All objectives utilized the advanced characterization technique of fast scanning calorimetry (FSC) using the Mettler Toledo Flash DSC 1. The first half of this work focuses on the high-performance semi-crystalline aromatic polymer poly(ether ketone ketone) (PEKK) with a copolymerization ratio of terephthalate to isophthalate moieties (i.e., T/I ratio) of 80/20. Due to the fast heating and cooling rates of the Flash DSC, PEKK underwent melt-reorganization upon heating at slow heating rates. This discovery resulted in utilizing a Hoffman-Weeks linear extrapolation of the zero-entropy production temperature to establish a new equilibrium melting temperature of 382 oC. Additionally, a new NMR solvent, dichloroacetic acid, was discovered for PEKK, allowing for comprehensive NMR analysis of PEKK for the first time. Diphenyl acetone (DPA) was discovered as a novel, benign gelation solvent for PEKK, enabling heterogeneous gel-state bromination and sulfonation to afford blocky microstructures. The gel state functionalization process resulted in a blocky microstructure with runs of pristine crystallizable PEKK retained within the crystalline domains, and amorphous domains containing the functionalized PEKK monomers. The preservation of the pristine crystalline domains resulted in enhanced physical and chemical properties compared to the randomly functionalized analogs. Additionally, heterogeneous gel state functionalization of PEKK gels prepared from different solvents and gelation temperatures resulted in differences in crystallization behavior between blocky microstructures of the same degree of functionalization. This result demonstrates that the blocky microstructure can be tuned through controlling the starting gel morphology. The second half of this work focuses on understanding the influence of cooling and heating rates on the melting, crystal morphology, and crystallization kinetics on isotactic polypropylene (iPP), iPP-polyethylene copolymers (iPP-PE), and iPP/iPP-PE blends and using this information to gain understanding of how these polymers crystallize during the additive manufacturing processes of powder bed fusion (PBF) and material extrusion (MatEx). The crystallization kinetics of iPP, iPP-PE copolymers, and iPP/iPP-PE blends exhibited bimodal parabolic-like behavior attributed to crystallization of the mesomorphic crystal polymorph at low temperatures and the α-form crystal at high temperatures. Incorporation of non-crystallizable polyethylene fractions both covalently and blended as a secondary component, resulted in decreasing crystallization rates, inhibition of crystallization, and decreased crystallizability. Additionally, the non-isothermal crystallization behavior of these systems shows that the non-crystallizable fractions influence the crystal nucleation density and temperature at which polymorphic crystallization occurs. Utilizing in-situ IR thermography in the PBF system, the heating and cooling rates observed for a single-layer PBF print were used to mimic the PBF process by FSC. Partial melting in the printing process leads to self-seeding and increased crystallization onset temperatures upon cooling, which influences the final part melting morphology. Nucleation from surrounding powder and partially melted crystals greatly influences the crystallization kinetics and crystal morphology of the final part. Utilizing rheological experiments and process-relevant cooling rates observed in the MatEx process, the miscibility of iPP/iPP-PE blends influenced the nucleation behavior and crystallization rates, subsequently leading to differences in printed part properties.



polymer morphology, post-polymerization functionalization, polymer crystallization, poly(ether ketone ketone), blocky copolymer, polyolefins, thermoreversible gelation, fast scanning calorimetry, additive manufacturing, powder bed fusion, material ex