Thermoplastic PLA-LCP Composites: A Route toward Sustainable, Reprocessable, and Recyclable Reinforced Materials

Gijs W. De Kort, Luciënne H.C. Bouvrie, Sanjay Rastogi, Carolus H.R.M. Wilsens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Reprocessing of reinforced composites is generally accompanied by loss of value and performance, as normally the reinforcing phase is damaged, or the matrix is lost in the process. In the search for more sustainable recyclable composite materials, we identify blends based on poly(l-lactide) (PLA) and thermotropic liquid crystalline polymers (LCP) as highly promising self-reinforced thermoplastic composites that can be recycled several times without loss in mechanical properties. For example, irrespective of the thermal history of the blend, injection molded bars of PLA containing 30 wt % LCP exhibit a tensile modulus of 6.4 GPa and tensile strength around 110 MPa, as long as the PLA matrix has a molecular weight of 170 kg mol-1 or higher. However, after several mechanical reprocessing steps, with the gradual decrease in the molecular weight of the PLA matrix, deterioration of the mechanical performance is observed. The origin of this behavior is found in the increasing LCP to PLA viscosity ratio: at a viscosity ratio below unity, the dispersed LCP droplets are effectively deformed into the desired fibrillar morphology during injection molding. However, deformation of LCP droplets becomes increasingly challenging when the viscosity ratio exceeds unity (i.e., when the PLA matrix viscosity decreases during consecutive reprocessing), eventually resulting in a nodular morphology, a poor molecular orientation of the LCP phase, and deterioration of the mechanical performance. This molecular weight dependency effectively places a limit on the maximum number of mechanical reprocessing steps before chemical upgrading of the PLA phase is required. Therefore, a feasible route to maintain or enhance the mechanical properties of the blend, independent of the number of reprocessing cycles, is proposed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)624-631
Number of pages8
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 13 2020
Externally publishedYes

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