Numerous techniques can be utilized to identify and analyze polymers whence their composition, together quantitative and qualitative, chain configuration and microstructure are distinguished. Such techniques range from easy tests that might need minimum equipment to extremely sophisticated, expensive and compound instrumental techniques these as gas-liquid chromatography, x-ray scattering, gel permeation chromatography, thermal analysis, and spectroscopy. Polymers generally enclose a number of additives such as antioxidants, crosslinking agents, fillers, lubricants, plasticisers, stabilisers, and so on. Which modify their behaviour. They may interfere with the identification of the polymer in which case it might be essential to eliminate them via solvent division techniques. Thus plasticized poly (vinyl chloride) may not be self-extinguishing and natural rubber enclosing antimony sulphide might be self-extinguishing. Colour, transparency and density aren't characteristic of a polymer as they could be drastically altered via the incorporation of suitable additives.
Simple identification tests
Many polymers can be quickly identified through easy tests with no resorting to complex instrumental techniques or detailed chemical analysis. In order to accomplish this, knowledge of mechanical properties and processing techniques of polymers in addition to familiarity through the results of such tests is extremely useful.
The 1st step is to find out if the polymer is a thermoplastic, thermoset or rubber. This can be inferred through examining the appearance, 'feel', odour and rigidity of the instance. The example might be a raw polymer intended for subsequent compounding and or processing. Examples are smoked sheet, crepe rubber, polyethylene granules and poly (vinyl chloride) granules. It might be a compounded stock intended for further processing. For example, novolak, dough moulding compound (DMC), PVC paste and so on it might be a terminated article such as PVC bottle, tyre and garden hose. The nature of the article excludes certain polymers. Therefore car tyres can only be moulded from rubber. Fabrication technique can as well give information for helpful deduction so that features these as sprue marks, flash, weld lines, and so on should be sought for on the finished article. Generally thermoplastics are extruded, injection moulded and calendered; thermosets are compression moulded and cast; while rubbers are extruded, compression moulded and calendered. Several polymers these as polysulphides and natural rubber smoked sheet have pronounced odours.
Others have a feel peculiar to them. Therefore polyethylene and polytetrafluoroethylene have a waxy feel. Rubber can be twisted or stretched to maximum with no fracture. Flexible thermoplastic aren't so extremely extensible and have no elastic 'snap back'. Rigid thermoplastic on being bent too far will first crack and then break. A notable exception is uncompounded polystyrene which is extremely brittle and fragile. Thermosets are extremely rigid and quite often, attempts to break them result in a sharp fracture with the freshly created surfaces rough.
Immersion in Water
This provides an indication of whether the exact gravity of the polymer sample is greater or less than unity via observing if a small pieces floats in water or not. If the exact gravity is less than unity then several of the more dense polymers are eliminated from the probe.
This test detects halogens. It involves bringing a example on a hot copper wire to colourless bunsen flame. A green flame proves the presence of a halogen.
Melting and Combustion
Heating a tiny piece of the example near a bunsen flame and without decomposition will specify fusibility, Thermoplasticity, fiber-forming properties or presence of crosslinking. The sample might soften appreciably therefore indicating it is a thermoplastic or unvulcanized rubber. The heating might have little or no effect on the example therefore it is thermoset or vulcanized rubber. The sample may soften initially and then harden on continued heating therefore indicating it is an uncured compounded polymer that crosslinks as the heating progresses. On placing the example in the flame the subsequent observations are made:
i. Does the substance burn and if yes how easily?
ii. What is the odour of the fumes and are they acid, alkaline or neutral?
iii. Does the example continue to burn after removal from the flame?
iv. What are the nature and colour of any flame?
v. What is the nature of any residue?
This test notices halogens, nitrogen, phosphorus or sulphur. From the consequences a sign of the possible nature of the polymer example is attained subsequent classification of polymers according to components present.
Complex/Sophisticated Instrumental Techniques
The simple tests on polymers aids in the identification of the polymers (for example, if the polymer is a rubber or plastic). For the final analysis and characterization, compound instrumental techniques are utilized to find out the properties of polymers. Several of such techniques include spectroscopy
(NMR, Raman, IR, FTIR, and so on.), chromatography (gel permeation and gas-liquid), x-ray diffraction, differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetric analysis; and so on
Infra-Red (IR) Spectroscopy
IR spectroscopy is extensively utilized in polymer science for structural classification, determination of crystallinity, and examination of decomposition products to establish the mechanism of degradation. For instance, the extent of branching in polyethylene can be approximation from the measurement of the relative absorbance of the methylene and methyl groups. The degree of tacticity in poly (methyl methacrylate), polypropylene and polystyrene can be ascertained from the ratios of characteristic absorbance bands related to tacticity. Therefore, for poly(methyl methacrylate) a methyl deformation at 1380cm-1 (7.25µm) isn't influenced via microstructure hence the syndiotacticity is the ratio of absorbance at 1064cm-1 (9.40 µm) to that at 1380cm-1(7.25µm). The band at 1064cm-1(9.40 µm) is present in atactic and syndiotactic polymers and not in the isotactic polymer.
Fourier Transform Infra-Red (FTIR)
Modern laboratories now utilize the Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer where the monochromator is reinstated through an interferometer. FTIR is utilized for identification of polymer or plastic; bonding groups; pharmaceutical substances, including pill coatings and timed-release agents; organic contaminants, and for adhesive bond failure investigation.
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy
NMR is a significant tool in the study of microstructure of polymers. It utilizes the property of several atomic nuclei to possess magnetic moments that interact through applied magnetic field. It is a helpful tool for identification of polymers and for quantitative work.
X-ray Diffraction (XRD)
The X-ray region lies between the γ- ray and ultra violet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, the wavelength being of the order of 10-8cm. The special usefulness of X-ray diffraction in the study of solid substances lies in its ability to differentiate ordered from disordered states. Besides using X-ray diffraction to detect order in polymers, it can be utilized to find out the degree of crystallinity, crystallite size, preferred orientation of the crystallites, phase composition in crystalline polymers and the chain repeat distance for a drawn fibre. As well it is originate useful in the investigation of adhesive bonding failures due to surface segregation of plasticizer or inorganic fill particles these as talc; or due to mold liberate agent or other contaminant; or due to stress in coating caused through internal layer contamination; or due to adhesive or primer degradation.
Gas-Liquid Chromatography (GLC)
Chromatography is the procedure of separating mixtures using a stationary phase and a moving phase. In gas-liquid chromatography the solutes are partition between a moving inert gas phase and an involatile liquid that is firmly absorbed on to an attached solid. GLC finds applications in analysis of additives, detection of impurities in monomers, characterization of polymers and copolymers by degradation. The technique might as well be employed on a preparative scale to separate volatile substances which might then be analyzed by other methods such as infrared and spectroscopy. It is thus an elegant method for separation, identification and quantification.
Gel Permeation Chromatography
Gel permeation chromatography is employed to find out the number average molecular weight, weight average molecular weight, and polydispersity of a polymer.
Various property transforms through temperature occurring in a substance might be investigated via dynamic mechanical thermal analysis (DMTA); thermogravimetric analysis (TGA); differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) or differential thermal analysis (DTA) and thermomechanical analysis (TMA).
Most materials undergoing physical and chemical changes such as evaporation and decomposition, involve change in heat content - heat absorption (endothermic) or heat liberation (exothermic). Such transforms in heat content might be detected as differences in temperature between the substance and its atmosphere.
Differential scanning calorimetry or Differential thermal analysis may be used to measure specific heats and any thermal transitions (glass transition, melting, softening, crystallisation, degradation, and so on). They are utilized to study the synthesis, processing, thermal and mechanical histories of polymers, gelation, and rate of cure of polymers these as elastomers, epoxy resins and unsaturated polyester resins.
Thermogravimetric analysis monitors the weight transform of the example against temperature or time. Thermogravimetry is a helpful method to study the polymerization and composition of filled polymers. Its primary use has been for measuring oxidation and degradation rates, investigating thermal stability and evaluation of antidegradants.
Detailed analyses of TG curves as well permit us to know a bit of the phase segregation in polymers. Rheological properties are as well commonly utilized to assist find out molecular architecture (molecular weight, molecular weight distribution and branching) in addition to understand how the polymer will procedure, through measurements of the polymer in the melt phase.
Thermomechanical analysis calculates the mechanical response of a polymer into a example as the temperature is changed. The technique might be utilized to detect softening and melting and to measure coefficient of expansion and their anisotropy.
Dynamic mechanical thermal analysis measures the dynamic storage modulus, dynamic loss modulus and damping factor of a material under oscillatory load as a function of temperature or time at diverse frequencies. It is a helpful tool in the study of polymer blends and composites, and curing processing thermosets.
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