Bio-inspired, Self-toughening polymers enabled by plasticizer-releasing microcapsules
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A new concept for the design of self-toughening thermoplastic polymers is presented. The approach involves the incorporation of plasticizer-filled microcapsules (MCs) in an intrinsically rigid and brittle matrix polymer. The intriguing adaptability that this simple tactic enables is demonstrated with composites composed of a poly(lactic acid) (PLA) matrix and 5–20% w/w poly(urea-formaldehyde) (PUF) MCs that contained hexyl acetate as plasticizer. At low strain (<1.5%), the glassy PLA/MC composites remain rigid, although the intact MCs reduce the Young's modulus and tensile strength by up to 50%. While the neat PLA shows brittle failure at a strain of around 2.5%, the composites yield in this regime, because the MCs rupture and release their plasticizing cargo. This effect leads up to 25-fold increase of the elongation at break and 20-fold increase of the toughness vis-à-vis the neat PLA, while the impact on modulus and ultimate stress is much smaller. Ballistic impact tests show that the self-toughening mechanism also works at much higher strain rates than applied in tensile tests and the operating mechanism is corroborated through systematic thermomechanical studies that involved dynamic mechanical testing and thermal analysis.
CitationMeesorn, W. [et al.]. Bio-inspired, Self-toughening polymers enabled by plasticizer-releasing microcapsules. "Advanced materials", Abril 2019, vol. 31, núm. 14, p. 1807212/1-1807212/8.