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The ever-increasing demand for high performance polymers has shifted the focus of recent studies in the area of polymer science from the development of new homopolymers to the development of new blends. As development costs for new homopolymers reach upward of $10 million (1990) with an additional $100 million for pilot plant costs in the development and commercialization steps there is also an economic incentive to develop new blends. Significant reduction in cost is possible through the dilution of high cost polymers with low cost polymers or fillers and the ease of implementation of new materials into existing processes. Although polymer blending is intuitively a simple idea of combining two or more different advantageous properties in a single system, it is not always successful or readily feasible due to the inherent incompatibility between polymers to be blended.
Work is being done to improve and/or enhance the properties of base polymers such as polypropylene and polyethylene through addition of
other polymeric materials including nylon, ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymers, ethylene-propylene elastomers (EPM & EPDM) and styrene
based elastomers. Materials are blended in a twin screw extruder, and collected as films/molded objects/fibers for mechanical testing and
characterization. Compatibilizers, such as PP-g-MA and PP-g-AA are often used to reduce interfacial tension between polymer domains of blend components
and ultimately improve the physical properties. Compatibilized polymer blends using nanoclay are also extensively studied in our
laboratory. Mechanical and morphological properties of blends and composites are also examined. Biodegradable polymer blends and biodegradable polymer clay nanocomposites are being developed for enhanced properties and added functionalities.
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