Investigations into the mechanical and physical behavior of thermoplastic elastomers
This thesis describes investigations into the physical and mechanical characteristics of two commercial thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) systems. Both systems studied exhibit elastomeric behavior similar to more traditional crosslinked elastomers; however, in these TPEs non-conventional polymer architectures and morphologies are used to produce their elastomeric behavior. The two TPEs of interest are ethylene-propylene random copolymers and dynamically vulcanized blends of ethylene-propylene-diene monomer (EPDM) and isotactic polypropylene (iPP). Very few studies have examined the mechanical behavior of these materials in terms of their composition and morphology. As such, the primary goal of this research is to both qualitatively and quantitatively understand the influence of composition and morphology on mechanical behavior. In additional very little information is available that compares their performance with that of crosslinked elastomers. As a result, the secondary goal is to qualitatively compare the mechanical responses of these TPEs with that of their more traditional counterparts.
The ethylene-propylene copolymers studied have very high comonomer contents and exhibit slow crystallization kinetics. Their morphology consists of nanoscale crystallites embedded in an amorphous rubbery matrix. These crystallites act as physical crosslinks that allow for elasticity. Slow crystallization causes subsequent changes in mechanical behavior that take place over days and even weeks. Physical responses (e.g., density, crystallization kinetics, and crystal structure) of five copolymer compositions are investigated. Mechanical responses (e.g., stiffness, ductility, yielding, and reversibility) are also examined. Finally, the influence of morphology on deformation is studied using in situ analytical techniques.
The EPDM/iPP blends are dynamically vulcanized which produces a complex morphology consisting of chemically crosslinked EPDM domains embedded within a semicrystalline iPP matrix. Six compositions are investigated as a function of three parameters: major volume fraction, iPP molecular weight, and EPDM cure state. The influence of these parameters on morphology and resulting mechanical behavior is examined. This work culminates in the development of a morphological model to describe the steady-state reversibility of these EPDM/iPP blends. The model is then evaluated in terms of composition and cure state.