Abstract

Variable-temperature Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) and Raman spectroscopic mapping measurements were applied to study the phase separation of a poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB)-poly(l-lactic acid) (PLA) (50 : 50 wt.%) polymer-blend film as a function of temperature between 25 and 175 °C. Because of the better band separation compared with the fundamental absorptions, the first overtones of the ν(C=O) bands of PHB and PLA were used to evaluate the temperature-dependent FT-IR images as PLA-PHB and PHB-PLA band-ratio contour plots, respectively. From the visualization of the band-ratio FT-IR images, it could be derived that even beyond the melting point of PLA (145 °C), the lateral position and the geometry of the PHB-rich and PLA-rich phases were retained up to 165 °C. Furthermore, the FT-IR images derived during and after the melting of PHB (174 °C) provided an interesting insight into the homogenization process of the polymer melt. By exploiting its higher lateral resolution, valuable additional information became available from the Raman mapping measurements. Based on the Raman data, the scenario of phase-separated PHB-rich and PLA-rich domains of about 50 μm size, based on the FT-IR imaging measurements, had to be revised. Instead, the originally interpreted PHB-rich and PLA-rich domains are actually clusters of much smaller grains. Additionally, the Raman images measured in the same temperature interval revealed that the clusters of small PHB-rich grain structures aggregated as a function of temperature increase. These investigations prove that FT-IR and Raman imaging in combination with variable-temperature measurements can provide new (and so far unavailable) insights into structural phenomena of phase-separated polymer blends.

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