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Structure, processing and performance of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (IUPAC Technical Report). Part 2: crystallinity and supra molecular structure

  • Bucknall, Clive1
  • Altstädt, Volker2
  • Auhl, Dietmar3
  • Buckley, Paul4
  • Dijkstra, Dirk5
  • Galeski, Andrzej6
  • Gögelein, Christoph7
  • Handge, Ulrich A.8
  • He, Jiasong9
  • Liu, Chen-Yang9
  • Michler, Goerg10
  • Piorkowska, Ewa6
  • Slouf, Miroslav11
  • Vittorias, Iakovos12
  • Wu, Jun Jie13
  • 1 Cranfield University, UK , (United Kingdom)
  • 2 Universität Bayreuth, Germany , (Germany)
  • 3 Fakultät III – Werkstoffwissenschaft Technische Universität Berlin, Germany , (United Kingdom)
  • 4 University of Oxford, UK , (United Kingdom)
  • 5 Covestro Deutschland AG, Germany , (Germany)
  • 6 Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland , (Poland)
  • 7 Arlanxeo Deutschland GmbH, Germany , (Germany)
  • 8 Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Max-Planck-Strasse 1 , (Germany)
  • 9 Laboratory of Polymer Science and Materials, China , (China)
  • 10 Martin-Luther-Universität, Germany , (Germany)
  • 11 Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry CAS, Czech Republic , (Czechia)
  • 12 Omya International AG, Baslerstrasse 42 , (Switzerland)
  • 13 Durham University, Stockton Road , (United Kingdom)
Published Article
Pure and Applied Chemistry
Walter de Gruyter GmbH
Publication Date
Aug 25, 2020
DOI: 10.1515/pac-2019-0403
De Gruyter


Test methods including OM, SEM, TEM, DSC, SAXS, WAXS, and IR were used to characterise supra-molecular structure in three batches of polyethylene (PE), which had weight-average relative molar masses M ¯ w ${\overline{M}}_{\text{w}}$ of approximately 0.6 × 106, 5 × 106, and 9 × 106. They were applied to compression mouldings made by the polymer manufacturer. Electron microscopy showed that powders formed in the polymerization reactor consisted of irregularly shaped grains between 50 and 250 μm in diameter. Higher magnification revealed that each grain was an aggregate, composed of particles between 0.4 and 0.8 μm in diameter, which were connected by long, thin fibrils. In compression mouldings, lamellar thicknesses ranged from 7 to 23 nm. Crystallinity varied between 70 and 75 % in reactor powder, but was lower in compression mouldings. Melting peak temperatures ranged from 138 to 145 °C, depending on processing history. DMTA showed that the glass transition temperature θ g was −120 °C for all three grades of polyethylene. IR spectroscopy found negligibly small levels of oxidation and thermal degradation in mouldings. Optical microscopy revealed the presence of visible fusion defects at grain boundaries. It is concluded that relatively weak defects can be characterized using optical microscopy, but there is a need for improved methods that can detect less obvious fusion defects.

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