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Polymer Solidification under Pressure and High Cooling Rates


Polymer solidification under processing conditions is a complex phenomenon in which the kinetics of flow, high thermal gradients and high pressures determine the product morphology. The study of polymer structure formed under pressure has been mainly made using conventional techniques such as dilatometry and differential scanning calorimetry under isothermal conditions or non isothermal conditions but at cooling rates several orders of magnitude lower than those experienced in industrial processes. A new equipment has been recently developed and improved to study the crystallization of polypropylene when subjected to pressure and cooled rapidly. An experimental apparatus essentially constituted of a special injection mould has been employed. Polymer samples can be cooled at a known cooling rate and under a known pressure. Micro Hardness (MH), Wide angle x-ray diffraction (WAXD), Polarised Optical Microscopy (POM) and density measurements are then used to characterize the sample morphology. The results of rapid cooling experiments underpressure on an iPP sample display a lower density and a lower density dependence on cooling rate for increasing pressure. Micro hardness confirms the trend. A deconvolution technique of WAXD patterns is used to evaluate the final phase content of samples and to assess a crystallization kinetics behaviour. Phase distribution results indicate that the decrease of alpha phase with pressure is balanced by an increase of the mesomorphic phase leaving unaffected the amorphous phase content. This peculiar behaviour can be easily related to a negative influence of pressure on the kinetics of the crystallization of alpha phase.