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Nanoscale Restructuring of Polymer Materials to Produce Single Polymer Composites and Miscible Blends

Fiber & Polymer Chemistry Program, Wilson College of Textiles, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606-8301, USA
Biomolecules 2019, 9(6), 240; https://doi.org/10.3390/biom9060240
Received: 24 May 2019 / Revised: 7 June 2019 / Accepted: 12 June 2019 / Published: 19 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Perspectives of Cyclodextrins)
I summarize work conducted in our laboratories over the past 30 years using small host molecules to restructure polymer materials at the nanometer level. Certain small molecules, such as the cyclic starches cyclodextrins (CDs) and urea (U) can form non-covalent crystalline inclusion compounds (ICs) with a range of guest molecules, including many polymers. In polymer-CD- and -U-ICs, guest polymer chains reside in narrow channels created by the host molecule crystals, where they are separated and highly extended. When the host crystalline lattice is carefully removed, the guest polymer chains coalesce into a bulk sample with an organization that is distinct from that normally produced from its melt or from solution. Amorphous regions of such coalesced polymer samples have a greater density, likely with less chain entanglement and more chain alignment. As a consequence, after cooling from their melts, coalesced amorphous polymers show glass-transition temperatures (Tgs) that are elevated above those of samples prepared from their solutions or melts. Upon cooling from their melts, coalesced samples of crystallizable polymers show dramatically-increased abilities to crystallize more rapidly and much closer to their melting temperatures (Tms). These unique behaviors of polymers coalesced from their CD- and U-ICs are unexpectedly resistant to extended annealing above their Tgs and Tms. Taking advantage of this behavior permits us to create polymer materials with unique and improved properties. Among these are amorphous polymers with elevated Tgs and semi-crystalline polymers with finer more uniform morphologies. Improved mechanical properties can be achieved through self-nucleation with small amounts of the same polymer made rapidly crystallizable through coalescence from its CD- or U-IC. This can lead to single polymer composites with as-received polymer matrices and self-nucleated reinforcements. Through simultaneous formation and subsequent coalescence from their common CD–ICs, stable well-mixed blends can be achieved between any two or more polymers, despite their inherent immiscibilities. Such coalesced and well-mixed blends are also resistant to phase segregation when heated for extensive periods well above their Tgs and Tms. View Full-Text
Keywords: polymer inclusion compounds; coalesced polymers; self-nucleation; miscible blending; single polymer composites polymer inclusion compounds; coalesced polymers; self-nucleation; miscible blending; single polymer composites
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MDPI and ACS Style

Tonelli, A.E. Nanoscale Restructuring of Polymer Materials to Produce Single Polymer Composites and Miscible Blends. Biomolecules 2019, 9, 240.

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