Terahertz dielectric spectroscopy is shown to be an effective tool for bench-marking ultraviolet aging of polypropylene. In this, thin-film polypropylene samples exposed to standard artificial ultraviolet radiation in accelerated aging from 1 day to 30 days are closely monitored by a terahertz time-domain spectroscopy system and analyzed using an effective data processing method. It is found that the terahertz absorption of the polypropylene samples is generally weak and the terahertz dielectric constant varies slightly though discernibly during the aging process, with the refractive index decreasing slightly with increasing length of ultraviolet exposure. Nonetheless, the rate of variation of the polypropylene refractive index with increasing terahertz frequency exhibits a drastic inflection around the 15-days aging point and the rate changes suddenly from positive value to negative value. Based on this prominent and consistent THz dielectric spectroscopic feature of the aging process, an efficient judging criterion is established to distinguish the early-term, mid-term, and late-term phases as well as the degree of polypropylene ultraviolet aging, corresponding to the fundamental transformation of the polymer material from a nonpolar to a polar substance at a critical level of oxidation induced by ultraviolet radiation.
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