Degradation of polypropylene in naturally and artificially weathered plastic matrix composites
Keywords:crystallinity, molecular weight distribution, polypropylene, weathering, wood plastic composites
Effects of accelerated and natural weathering on the molecular weight distribution (MWD) and crystallinity of polypropylene (PP) in wood plastic composites (WPC) were investigated. The composites were produced from pine fibers (60%) and PP (40%). Prolonged weathering caused an increase in wood degradation and erosion thereby leaving cracks and ‘‘pits’’ on the surface. Pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py GC-MS) revealed that PP dominated the weathered surface due to wood degradation. For matrix analysis, PP was extracted using 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene. Crystallinity and molecular weight distribution of PP were monitored by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and gel permeation chromatography (GPC), respectively. PP’s crystallinity increased upon longer exposure time. The weight and number average molecular weight (Mw and Mn) decreased with an increase in weathering duration. An increased polydispersity (PD = Mw/Mn) implies that a secondary cross-linking process occurred during weathering.