Polymer Engineering Faculty Research

Properties of polyethylene modified with phosphonate side groups I. Thermal and mechanical properties

Robert Weiss, The University of Akron


Low-density polyethylene was modified by the inclusion of phosphonate ester pendent groups by using an oxidative chlorophosphonylation reaction followed by esterification of the polyethylene poly(phosphonyl chloride) with an alcohol. Two different types of phosphonate esters were prepared: dimethyl phosphonate from the reaction with methanol and a phosphonate graft copolymer from the reaction with hydroxy-terminated poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO). For the latter, oligomers with molecular weights of 350 and 750 were used. For each type of phosphonate, a series of polymers were prepared with pendent group concentrations ranging from 0 to 9.1 substituents per 100 carbon atoms. The modified polymers were characterized by infrared spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, and by measurement of the tensile modulus. Infrared spectroscopy proved to be useful for determining if the polymer modification reaction resulted in entirely phosphonate ester pendent group substitutions or if unesterified phosphonic acid groups were also present. The polymers prepared in this investigation exhibited no infrared absorbances arising from phosphonic acid groups. The presence of phosphonate ester groups resulted in a decrease of crystallinity with increasing phosphonate concentration and with the exception of the polymers containing 9.1 PEO–phosphonate grafts per 100 carbon atoms, the effect of phosphonylation on the melting temperature of the polymers was consistent with Flory's theory for the melting point depression of random copolymers. The tensile modulus measured from a constant uniaxial elongation experiment decreased with increasing phosphonylation. The behavior of all three phosphonate series was identical and could be attributed to the effect of decreasing polymer crystallinity.