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Ultraporous poly(l-lactide) scaffolds prepared with quaternary immiscible polymer blends modified by copolymer brushes at the interface

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.polymer.2011.01.061
  • Copolymer Brush
  • Polymeric Porous Materials
  • Microstructures


Abstract The activity of polystyrene-block-poly(l-lactide) (PS-b-PLLA) and polystyrene-block-poly(methyl methacrylate) (PS-b-PMMA) diblock copolymer brushes located at a PS/PLLA interface were employed as a route to control the final microstructure of 95% void volume, ultraporous PLLA scaffolds. The latter were initially prepared from melt-processed quaternary blends of ethylene propylene diene rubber/poly(ɛ-caprolactone)/polystyrene/poly(l-lactide) (EPDM/PCL/PS/PLLA) 45/45/5/5%vol. modified with the diblock copolymers. The blends display a layer comprised of the PS and PLLA phases located at the interface of the co-continuous EPDM and PCL phases. When the PS-b-PLLA copolymer is added, sub-micrometric PLLA droplets are encapsulated within the PS continuous layer phase. In comparison, both the PS and PLLA phases compete for the encapsulation process when the PS-b-PMMA is used, indicating that the microstructure of the PLLA phase can be fine-tuned with an adequate choice of interfacial modifier. These effects were investigated by analyzing the microstructure of ternary high-density polyethylene (HDPE)/PS/PMMA 80/10/10%vol. blends displaying PS/PMMA shell/core composite droplets in a HDPE matrix. An inversion of the shell/core structure is observed when the PS-b-PLLA copolymer is used to compatibilize the PS/PMMA interface, whereas no such restructuring occurs with the PS-b-PMMA. These effects are explained by the activity and swelling powers of the copolymer brushes. For the EPDM/PCL/PS/PLLA quaternary systems modified with the PS-b-PMMA, the PLLA homopolymer phase significantly penetrates and swells the PMMA blocks due to their mutual high affinity, as compared to the classical like-prefers-like compatibilization approach. The swelling of the blocks will tend to bend the interface toward the PS phase in order to minimize the lateral compression of the PMMA blocks. A similar effect explains the reversal of the PS/PMMA shell/core structure in the HDPE/PS/PMMA ternary system. This level of control ultimately leads to quite significant differences in microstructures and surface textures for the PLLA scaffolds.

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