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News

Polymer nanocrystal created from polyethylene (PE) holds promise in coatings

Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin Research Centre (Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin Für Materialien Und Energie (HZB) ) : 29 August, 2013  (Special Report)
German researchers have successfully created a polymer nanocrystal from PE. The scientists from universities in Constance, Bayreuth, and Berlin, used a new type of catalyst to synthesize the nanocrystal as well as a combination of analytic tools offered by the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin research centre. The crystalline nanostructure gives the polymer new properties which could be of interest for producing new types of coatings.
The synthesis was accomplished with the aid of a water-soluble catalyst which allowed for ethylene polymerisation in the aqueous phase. High polymer compounds such as PE are typically partly crystalline. They consist of lamellar-like crystals partly coated by a layer of amorphous PE which is characterised by imperfections. In the process, newly developing parts of the molecular chain are immediately incorporated into the growing crystal so that imperfections are not allowed to form, creating an ideal polymer nanocrystal. Chemically speaking, an ideal crystal is a single crystal with a perfectly regular lattice containing no impurities, imperfection or other defects. The team’s findings are being published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal.
 
Helmholtz: Ideale Nanokristalle aus Standard-Thermoplasten
 
Forschern der Universität Konstanz und des Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin ist es gelungen, aus Polyethylen „ideale Nanokristalle" herzustellen. Normalerweise ist die molekulare Struktur von PE teilkristallin, das bedeutet, dass sie teilweise aus kristallinem Material besteht, das von amorphem Material überzogen ist. In diesen amorphen Regionen finden sich Unregelmäßigkeiten, wie Knötchen, die wiederum Auswirkungen auf die Materialeigenschaften des Polymers haben.
 
Die Wissenschaftler haben einen wasserlöslichen Katalysator entwickelt, der die Polymerisation von Polyethylen in der Wasserphase ermöglicht. Bei diesem Verfahren werden neu gebildete Molekülketten direkt in den wachsenden Kristall integriert, wodurch keine amorphen Bereiche und damit auch keine Unregelmäßigkeiten entstehen. In winzige Teile zerlegt besitzen die Nanokristalle andere Materialeigenschaften als herkömmliches Polyethylen.
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