(19)
(11)EP 1 938 948 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
19.06.2019 Bulletin 2019/25

(21)Application number: 06797208.3

(22)Date of filing:  31.08.2006
(51)Int. Cl.: 
B29C 55/00  (2006.01)
G01N 3/08  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/JP2006/317248
(87)International publication number:
WO 2007/026832 (08.03.2007 Gazette  2007/10)

(54)

PROCESS FOR PRODUCING POLYMER ORIENTED CRYSTAL AND METHOD FOR DETERMINING CRITICAL ELONGATION STRAIN RATE OF POLYMER MELT

VERFAHREN ZUR HERSTELLUNG VON ORIENTIERTEM POLYMERKRISTALL UND VERFAHREN ZUR ERMITTLUNG DER KRITISCHEN ZUGDEHNUNGSRATE VON POLMYERSCHMELZE

PROCEDE DE FABRICATION DE CRISTAL ORIENTÉ DE POLYMÈRE ET MÉTHODE DE DÉTERMINATION DU TAUX DE CONTRAINTE D'ALLONGEMENT CRITIQUE D'UNE FUSION POLYMÈRE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
DE GB

(30)Priority: 02.09.2005 JP 2005255653

(43)Date of publication of application:
02.07.2008 Bulletin 2008/27

(73)Proprietor: National University of Corporation Hiroshima University
Higashihiroshima-shi Hiroshima 739-0046 (JP)

(72)Inventors:
  • HIKOSAKA, Masamichi, c/o Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences
    Hiroshima 739-8521 (JP)
  • WATANABE, Kaori c/o Hikosaka Laboratory, Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences
    Hiroshima 739-8521 (JP)

(74)Representative: Hoffmann Eitle 
Patent- und Rechtsanwälte PartmbB Arabellastraße 30
81925 München
81925 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
JP-A- 07 243 120
JP-A- 60 089 333
JP-A- 2000 218 750
US-A- 4 053 270
JP-A- 09 316 283
JP-A- 61 193 836
JP-A- 2003 041 074
US-A- 5 234 652
  
  • F. H. M. SWARTJES ET AL: "Stress Induced Crystallization in Elongational Flow", INTERNATIONAL POLYMER PROCESSING, vol. 18, no. 1, 1 March 2003 (2003-03-01), pages 53-66, XP55202363, ISSN: 0930-777X, DOI: 10.3139/217.1719
  • Huang Han-Xiong: "Mechanical anisotropy of self-reinforced polyethylene crystallized during continuous-melt extrusion", Journal of Materials Science Letters 18, 31 December 1999 (1999-12-31), pages 225-228, XP055202360, Retrieved from the Internet: URL:http://rd.springer.com/content/pdf/10. 1023/A:1006628324534.pdf [retrieved on 2015-07-14]
  • G H MCKINLEY ET AL: "Extensional rheometry of polymeric fluids and the uniaxial elongation of viscoelastic filaments", PLENARY PAPER PRESENTED AT 15 TH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL POLYMER PROCESSING SOCIETY, 30 June 1999 (1999-06-30), XP055201765,
  • D. E. BUERGER ET AL: "Crystallization of sheared polymer melts: poly(ethylene oxide) fractions", POLYMER BULLETIN, vol. 22, no. 5-6, 1 December 1989 (1989-12-01), pages 593-598, XP055201739, ISSN: 0170-0839, DOI: 10.1007/BF00718939
  • CLARISSE LUAP ET AL: "Simultaneous stress and birefringence measurements during uniaxial elongation of polystyrene melts with narrow molecular weight distribution", RHEOLOGICA ACTA, SPRINGER-VERLAG, DE, vol. 45, no. 1, 1 September 2005 (2005-09-01), pages 83-91, XP019340639, ISSN: 1435-1528, DOI: 10.1007/S00397-005-0452-5
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

TECHNICAL FIELD



[0001] The present invention relates to a method for producing a polymer oriented crystal (that is, polymer oriented crystals) excellent in various properties such as mechanical strength, heat tolerance, and transparency, and polymer oriented crystals produced by the same method. Further, the present invention relates to a method for determining a critical elongation strain rate of a polymer melt.

BACKGROUND ART



[0002] So-called "general-purpose plastic" such as polyethylene (hereinafter, referred to as "PE") polypropylene (hereinafter, referred to as "PP"), polystyrene (hereinafter, referred to as "PS"), polyvinyl chloride (hereinafter referred to as "PVC) are very popular material as various daily-use products (such as bag, various wrapping, various container, sheets, etc.) industrial parts of automobiles, electronic products, daily-use products, general merchandise, and the like, not only because they are very low in price (100 yen or less per kg) but also because they can be easily molded, and are light in weight (one severalth of these of metal and ceramics).

[0003] However, the general-purpose plastics are disadvantages in terms of mechanical strength and heat tolerance. Because of this, the application of general-purpose plastics is limited today, because the general-purpose plastics cannot satisfy the property requirements for various industrial products such as mechanical products such as automobiles, electric, electronic, and information products. For example, PE has a softening temperature of generally about 90°C. PP, which is relatively heat tolerant, is softened at about 130°C in general. Moreover, PP is insufficient in transparency compared with polycarbonate (hereinafter, referred to as "PC"), and polyethylene terephthalate (hereinafter, referred to as "PET"). The insufficient transparency prevents PP from being used as optical products, bottle, and transparent container.

[0004] On the other hand, so-called "engineering plastics" such as PET, PC, fluoroplastics (Teflon (Registered Trademark) etc.), nylon, polymethylpentene, polyoxymethylene, acrylic resin, are excellent in mechanical strength, heat tolerance, transparency, etc. The engineering plastics, which are not softened at a temperature of 150°C in general, are used as various industrial product materials and optical materials, which require high property, for automobiles, mechanical products and electric products. On the other hand, the engineering plastics are significantly disadvantageous. For example, they are very expensive (several hundred yen/kg to several thousands yen/kg). Further, the engineering plastics are very environmental unfriendly because monomer recycle thereof is difficult or impossible.

[0005] Therefore, large improvement of the general-purpose plastics in material properties such as mechanical strength, heat tolerance, and transparency, etc. would allow the general-purpose plastics to replace the engineering plastics, and further the metal materials. This will significantly reduce the cost of various industrial products and daily-use products, which are made of polymer or metal. Further, this will give light weight to the various industrial products and daily-use products, thereby attaining great reduction in energy consumption and great improvement in handling. For example, PET is used in bottles for drinks such as soft drinks. If PET is replaced with PP, the cost of the bottle can be reduced significantly. Moreover, the monomer recycle of PET is possible but not easy. Thus, used PET bottles are cuts in pieces and reused once or twice for low-quality purposes such as cloths fibers, films, etc., and then discarded. On the other hand, PP is easy to perform monomer recycle and can be completely recycled. The use of PP can reduce consumption of fossil fuel and CO2 production.

[0006] In order to improve the general-purpose plastics in properties such as mechanical strength, heat tolerance, transparency, etc. to replace the engineering plastics and metals with the general-purpose plastics, it is necessary to improve PP and PE in crystal ratio (crystalinity) significantly, and preferably to produce "crystal" which is a pure crystal contain almost no amorphous PP or PE. Especially, PP is higher in mechanical strength and heat tolerance than PE. Thus, advantage of PP is highly expected. Annual production of PP is increased steadily by several % each year.

[0007] One method known to improve the crystalinity of polymer is to cool the polymer melt at a slow rate. This method, however, cannot attain sufficient improvement in the crystalinity at all. Further, this method leads to significant deterioration in productivity of the product and low mechanical strength due to huge crystal particle size. Another known method is to cool the melted polymer solution under high pressure in order to increase the crystalinity. This method, however, need pressuring the polymer melt at several hundreds atm or greater. Thus, this method is only experimentally possible, but not feasible in industrial production due to complicate production apparatus design and high production cost. Thus, this method is difficult to adopt practically. One another known method to improve the polymer crystalinity is to add a nucleating agent in the polymer melt. However, this method currently so disadvantageous that it cannot avoid (a) contamination with the nucleating agent as impurity (b) increase in cost due to higher cost of the nucleating agent than resin. In conclusion, there is no method to improve the crystalinity of the polymer in the general-purpose plastic and to produce the "crystal" of the polymer at this moment.

[0008] Incidentally, many study showed that a polymer melt (isotropic melt) in which molecular chains take random conformation (so called "random coil") is crystallized with a mixture of shish crystal form and kebab crystal form when crystallized under shear flow (see Non-Patent Citation 1). The shish crystal form is fiber-like crystal of several µm in thickness and is formed along the flow. The kebab crystal form is a lamination of thin-film crystal and amorphous skewered through the shish crystal form. This form is referred to as "shish-kebab" like Japanese Yakitori's stick and meat.

[0009] In the production of shish-kebab form, only the shish form is created locally in an initial period. The shish form has Elongated Chain Crystal (ECC) structure in which straightly-elongated molecular chains are crystallized (see Non-Patent Citation 5). On the other hand, the crystal portion of the kebab form has a Folded Chain Crystal (FCC) structure in which the molecular chains are folded at a surface of the thin-film crystal. How the shish-kebab form is produced has not been explained in terms of molecular theory, because it has not been studies kinetically. The FCC is a thin-film crystal (called lamellar crystal) which is most widely seen among polymer crystals. Moreover, it is widely known that injection molding forms a "skin" (which is a thin crystalline film of several hundred µm thickness) on surface, and a "core" inside. The core is a "lamination structure (lamination lamellar structure)" in which a folded chain crystal and amorphous are laminated. (see Non-Patent Citation 6). The skin formed from shish-kebab form but the shish is formed only sparsely. Production mechanism of the skin structure has been totally unknown in the lack of kinetic study thereon.

[0010] The inventors of the present invention are pioneers to study the production mechanism of the shish form kinetically, and found the mechanism of the local formation of the shish form in the melt: at a boundary with heterogeneity, some molecular chains in the melt attain liquid crystal orientation because the molecular chains are elongated due to "topological interaction" with the boundary, and the melt become "Oriented melt". (See Non-Patent Citations 2 and 3 for example.) Here, the topological interaction is an effect that string-like polymer chains pull each other because they are entangled. The topological interaction is well-known as a characteristic interaction among polymers. The inventors of the present invention are first to report the topological crystallization mechanism theory of polymers, explaining how the ECC and FCC are formed. This theory is called "sliding diffusion theory" and recognized worldwide. (See Non-Patent Citation 7.)

[0011] Moreover, the inventors of the present invention report the general theory of the mechanism how the crystallization under low shear rate elongates the molecular chains to form the oriented melt thereby to speed up nucleation and growth speed. (See Non-Patent Citation 4.)

[0012] Based on these, it is expected that the polymer crystallization will be facilitated and high crystalinity can be achieved if the whole polymer melt become oriented melt. Here, the polymer melt become oriented melt wholly is referred to as bulk oriented melt. Further it is expected that if the bulk oriented melt can be crystallized with the orientation, "crystal" in which majority (preferably 50% or more) of the polymer molecular chains are oriented can be produced. (The crystal is referred to as bulk "polymer oriented crystals".) In this case, the nucleation is significantly facilitated and a vast number of nuclei is created between molecular chains without adding nucleating agent thereto. This eliminates the need of the addition of the impurity and allows the crystal size to be in nano meter order. It is expected that this leads to polymers with high transparency and dramatic improvement in mechanical strength and heat tolerance.

[Non-Patent Citation 1]
A.Keller, M.J.Machin, J.Macromol.Sci., Phys., B2, 501 (1968)

[Non-Patent Citation 2]
S. Yamazaki, M.Hikosaka et al, Polymer, 46, 2005, 1675-1684.

[Non-Patent Citation 3]
S. Yamazaki, M.Hikosaka et al, Polymer, 46, 2005, 1685-1692.

[Non-Patent Citation 4]
Watanabe, et al., 2005 Annual Meeting of the Society of Polymer Science, Polymer Preprints, Japan, 54(1), 626

[Non-Patent Citation 5]
B. Wunderlich, T. Arakawa, J. Polym. Sci., 2, 3697-3706(1964)

[Non-Patent Citation 4]
Terumi FUJIYAMA, "Structure of Skin Layer of Extruded Polypropylene", Polymer Preprints, 32(7), PP411-417(1975)

[Non-Patent Citation 7]
M.Hikosaka, Polymer 1987 28 1257-1264

In the article 'Stress induced crystallization in elongational flow' (Swartjes F. H. M., et. al., International Polymer Processing, vol. 18, no. 1, 1 March 2003, pages 53-66), stress-induced crystallization was studied in an extensional flow device (a cross-slot flow cell) for an isotactic Polypropylene (iPP) by measuring the micro-structure that develops after flow.

[0013] Another article titled 'Mechanical anisotropy of self-reinforced polyethylene crystallized during continuous-melt extrusion' (Huang Han-Xiong, Journal of Materials Science Letters 18, 31 December 1999, pages 225-228) measured microhardness and tribological properties of self-reinforced HDPE sheets continuously extruded using an extruder and a conical die to evaluate their mechanical anisotropy. Self-reinforced HDPE sheets exhibited an anisotropic indentation pattern and, in addition, directionally dependent friction coefficient and wear resistance.

[0014] US4053270 describes an extrusion apparatus for producing a highly oriented extrudate of a thermoplastic polymeric material, comprising: a. a plasticating extruder means; b. an elongational flow pattern-developing reservoir means; c. an orientation-retaining extrusion die means; d. temperature control means; and e. a variable speed take-up means.

[0015] US5234652 describes a process for the continuous production of a high modulus article, including the steps: a) continuously forcing a high molecular weight plastic material, while it is close to or at its melt temperature, through a passage of which the cross-sectional area diminishes in the forward direction of plastic flow, thereby to produce an extrudate, said plastic material being substantially free of diluents and solvents; b) lubricating the plastic material adjacent the passage to obtain substantially plug flow of the material through said passage; c) adjusting the speed of plastic flow with respect to the shape of the passage so that the Elongational Velocity Gradient (EVG) at any longitudinal position within the passage does not exceed a critical EVG defined as that value below which the extrudate contains substantially no fibrillar molecular orientation, thereby resulting in an extrudate with substantially no fibrillar molecular orientation as characterized by a morphological transition at substantially 152 °C.; d) deforming the extrudate, while it is maintained at or close to its melt temperature, to produce an oriented, deformed extrudate; and e) quickly cooling the deformed extrudate to preserve the orientation.

[0016] As described above, it is theoretically expected that bulk polymer oriented crystals can be obtained by preparing a bulk oriented melt from a polymer melt and then crystallizing the oriented melt by cooling. Non-Patent Citations 2 and 3 discloses critical strain rate ("critical shear strain rate γ*") at which oriented melt can be produced partly under shear flow. However, bulk oriented melt cannot be produced by applying shear to the polymer melt at strain rate equal to or greater than the critical shear strain rate, which produces the oriented melt only partly in the vicinity of the boundary with the
heterogeneity. (In this case, the strain rate is a critical strain rate under shear deformation, that is, under shear flow. Meanwhile, later-described ε* is a critical strain rate under elongation flow.) Here, γ* = about 0.3s-1, which is smaller by one digit than the later described ε* = about several ten s-1. Thus, the bulk polymer oriented crystals cannot be obtained even if the information based on the critical shear strain rate recited in the Non-Patent Citations is used. That is, no method has not been established, which determines the critical strain rate (critical elongation strain rate), which can straighten the polymer in the polymer melt in the bulk oriented melt. Moreover, even if the critical elongation strain rate can be determined, the critical elongation strain rate varies depending on type of the polymer, polymerization rate of the polymer, and molecular weight distribution in the polymer, and entangling density, melting temperature, and the like. Thus, the critical elongation strain rate should be determined for each polymer. Thus, at this moment, the bulk polymer oriented crystals cannot be produced by applying the technologies described above.

[0017] An object of the present invention is to establish method for determining the critical elongation strain rate in the polymer melt, which method allows preparation of the bulk oriented melt by straitening the molecular chains in the polymer melt. Further, an object of the present invention is to improve the crystalinity of polymers by this method. Finally, an object of the present invention is to provide a method for producing the bulk polymer oriented crystals.

DISCLOSURE OF INVENTION



[0018] As a result of diligent studies to solve the aforementioned problems, the inventors of the present invention uniquely developed a Compression-type crystallization apparatus, which can determine a critical elongation strain rate of a polymer melt by a single test, which has been difficult to determine. The present invention is accomplished by finding means for determining the critical elongation strain rate by using the Compression-type crystallization apparatus.

[0019] A method according to the present invention is a method for producing polymer oriented crystals as defined in claim 1.

[0020] According to the method of the present invention, a bulk oriented crystal of polymer (which may be called "polymer oriented crystals") can be obtained.

[0021] The method according to the present invention may be arranged preferably such that the polymer melt is a polypropylene melt. The method according to the present invention may be arranged more preferably such that the polymer melt is an isotactic polypropylene melt.

[0022] According to the method, it is possible to obtain polymer oriented crystals of polypropylene. The polymer oriented crystals of polypropylene are improved in heat tolerance, mechanical strength, etc., and is highly transparent due to its crystal molecules of nano meter order. Here, what is meant by the mechanical strength is overall strength such as breaking strength, rigidity, toughness, etc. Moreover, it is more preferable that the polypropylene is isotactic polypropylene in which methyl groups are oriented in one direction, because this further improves crystalinity, thereby improving the properties. This makes it possible to use polypropylene in various industrial parts of automobiles, electronic products, and the other products, to which polypropylene has not been applicable conventionally due to its poor mechanical strength, heat tolerance, etc. This can make a significant reduction in the cost of the industrial parts, etc. Moreover, as described above, monomer recycle of PP is easy. Thus, the use of PP lowers the consumption of fossil fuels thereby contribution to CO2 reduction, which is worked on worldwide.

[0023] Meanwhile, polymer oriented crystals produced by the method according to the present invention are significantly high in crystalinity compared with conventional polymers, and has a very small crystal size of nano meter order. Therefore, the polymer oriented crystals are improved in properties such as heat tolerance, mechanical strength, toughness, transparency, etc.

[0024] According to the method, it is possible to determine the critical elongation strain rate of the polymer melt by testing the polymer sample with ease, even though the critical elongation strain rate has not been determinable conventionally. By applying the critical elongation strain rate of the polymer to the method according to the present invention for producing the polymer oriented crystals, it becomes possible to produce polymer oriented crystals that have not been obtainable conventionally.

[0025] As described above, the present invention makes it possible to produce bulk polymer oriented crystals, thereby making it possible to use a general-purpose plastic in replacement of engineering plastics. This leads to great reduction in the cost of various industrial products made of polymer. Moreover, the present invention can give the polymer a strength equivalent to that of metals. Thus, the present invention makes it possible to use a general-purpose plastic in replacement of metals. The use of the general-purpose plastic in replacement of metals reduces the weight of conveyance apparatus to one severalth, because the specific gravity of the general-purpose plastic is one eighth of the metal. This reduces fuel consumption, thereby making a great contribution to energy saving.

[0026] For a fuller understanding of the nature and advantages of the invention, reference should be made to the ensuing detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS



[0027] 

Fig. 1 is a schematic view illustrating a Compression-type crystallization apparatus for use in determination of critical elongation strain rate of a polymer melt.

Fig. 2 is a graph plotting a radius x of a disc-shaped polymer sample against elongation strain rate ε (x).

Fig. 3(a) is a side view of the Compression-type crystallization apparatus.

Fig. 3(b) is an upper view of the Compression-type crystallization apparatus.

Fig. 4 is a graph plotting a center distance x' of a rectangular shaped polymer in a melt against elongation strain rate ε (x').

Fig. 5(a) is a side cross sectional view illustrating a die (one example) for use in a method according to the present invention for producing polymer oriented crystals.

Fig. 5(b) is a side cross sectional view illustrating a die (another example) for use in a method according to the present invention for producing polymer oriented crystals.

Fig. 6 is a graph showing a plot (one example) of a compression ratio β against an elongation strain ration ε (β).

Fig. 7(a) is a schematic view of an apparatus (one example) for use in producing the polymer oriented crystals.

Fig. 7(b) is a schematic view of an apparatus (another example) for use in producing the polymer oriented crystals.

Fig. 8 is a polarization microscopic view of a sample prepared by elongation crystallization of isotactic polypropylene melt by using the compression-type crystallization apparatus in an Example.

Fig. 9 is a microscopic view of a sample prepared by treating the sample of Fig. 8 at a constant temperature of 181.8°C for 10 min.

Fig. 10 is a graph plotting τ-1 against Δ T-2 in oriented crystal and spherulite prepared by elongation crystallization of isotactic polypropylene melt in an Example.


Reference Numerals



[0028] 

1, 1' Upper Transparent Board

2, 2' Lower Transparent Board

3 Polymer Melt

10 Compression-type Crystallization Apparatus


BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION



[0029] One embodiment of the present invention is described below. It should be noted that the present invention is not limited thereto and can be modified in various ways within the scope of the appended claims.

<1. Method according to the present invention for producing polymer oriented crystals>



[0030] The present invention relates to a method for producing polymer oriented crystals. The method is applicable to any polymers including so-called general-purpose plastics (such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), and the like), so-called engineering plastics (polyethylene terephthalate (PET), nylon, fluoroplastics such as Teflon (Registered Trademark)). It is preferable to apply a general-purpose plastic to the method of present invention, because it can improve the general-purpose plastic of low cost in terms of its properties such as mechanical property, heat tolerance, transparency, etc. and allow the general-purpose plastic to replace the engineering plastic, thereby significantly reducing the cost of industrial resin parts etc. Further, PP is preferable among the general-purpose plastics, because PP is more heat-tolerable and mechanically stronger than the other general-purpose plastics. Moreover, among PP, isotactic polypropylene (hereinafter, referred to as iPP where appropriate) is especially preferable. This is because iPP has good crystalinity due to its structure in which methyl groups are oriented in one direction. Thus, it is easy to obtain the polymer oriented crystals from iPP. Moreover, the resultant polymer oriented crystals prepared from iPP can attain finer crystal molecules more easily than these prepared from general PP. Thus, the resultant polymer oriented crystals prepared from iPP have a higher transparency than these prepared from general PP.

[0031] The "bulk polymer oriented crystals" in this Description are a highly crystallized crystal having a structure in which polymer molecular chains are highly oriented and occupy majority (preferably 50% or more) of the solid portion. The polymer oriented crystals may contain amorphous in addition to the crystal. By crystallizing the polymer melt while it is in the state of oriented melt, the molecular chains contained in the oriented melt are associated with each other. This leads to nucleation and crystal growth without assistance of heterogeneity. Thereby, the polymer oriented crystals are produced.

[0032] Generally, in the melt of polymer (referred to as "polymer melt"), the polymer molecular chains are present with random and isotropic form (for example, in a random coil form). Such a polymer melt is referred to as "isotropic melt"). Application of external force such as shearing force, elongation, etc. to the isotropic melt straightens the polymer molecular chains. The straightened polymer molecular chains go back to the random state by entropic relaxation thermodynamically. If the external force is applied at a strain rate equal to or greater than a certain level, the application overrules the entropic relaxation that causes the molecular chains to return to the random state. As a result, a melt with high orientation of the molecular chains is obtained (which is called as oriented melt). The strain rate at which the polymer isotropic solution can be turned to the oriented melt is called "critical strain rate". Especially, the critical strain rate at which the polymer melt is turned to the bulk oriented melt by straightening the molecular chains is called "critical elongation strain rate".

[0033] Therefore, the production of the bulk polymer oriented crystals need subjecting the polymer melt to elongation at a strain rate equal to or greater than the critical elongation strain rate.

[0034] However, a method and means for determining the critical elongation strain rate has not been established. In the following, a "step of determining the critical elongation strain rate" is explained, which can determine the critical elongation strain rate of the polymer melt. The method of the present invention for producing the polymer oriented crystals preferably may or may not comprises this step.

<1-1: Step of determining the critical elongation strain rate>



[0035] The inventors of the present invention developed a compression-type crystallization apparatus by themselves, which can determine the critical elongation strain rate. This crystallization apparatus makes it possible to directly observe the elongation crystallization of the polymer melt by using an optical microscope. A structure of the crystallization apparatus is explained referring to the schematic view of Fig. 1. A crystallization apparatus 10 comprises a pair of transparent boards (upper transparent board 1 and a lower transparent board 2). Temperature of the transparent boards can be controlled by temperature controlling means (not illustrated). The transparent boards can be made of any material, provided that they are so transparent that a polymer sample sandwiched therebetween can be observed by the optical microscope. However, the transparent boards should sandwich the polymer melt of a high temperature. Thus, it is preferable that the transparent boards be made of a highly heat tolerant material such as glass, quartz, sapphire, or diamond. Moreover, it is preferable that the transparent boards have a flat surface.

[0036] Next, how to determine the critical elongation strain rate of the polymer melt by using the crystallization apparatus 10 is explained below. Firstly, a disc-shaped polymer melt (sample) 3' is placed on the lower transparent board 2, and then sandwiched between the upper transparent board 1 and the lower transparent board 2. Then, they are set in a polarization microscope to observe the crystallization process directly. Then, the sample is rapidly cooled (cooling rate: 20°C/min or faster) to a constant temperature (crystallization temperature) at which the polymer melt (sample) is kept supercooled (degree of supercooling ΔT: 20K or greater). Then, the upper transparent board 1 is moved toward at a constant rate (rate: 3mm/s or faster) thereby to push the polymer melt (sample) 3' in a thickness direction at a constant rate (as an alternative, the lower transparent board 2 may be moved toward the upper transparent board 1). In the polymer melt (sample) 3 thus crystallized, a portion in which the polymer melt is turned to an oriented melt and then crystallized to polymer oriented crystals is observed as a white portion with close-packed fiber-like shish via the polarization microscopic observation. On the other hand a portion in which the polymer melt is not turned to an oriented melt or oriented crystal but to isotropic melt or spherulite (which is an isotropic crystal) is observed as black or spherical white portion. Fig. 8 illustrates a polarization microscopic view in which a polymer melt (PP) was being crystallized by using the crystallization apparatus 10. The white region in Fig. 8 is a region in which bulk polymer oriented crystals have been formed form close-packed shish. The black region in Fig. 8 is a region in which isotropic melt including spherulite was present. Therefore, the boundary between the white and black region is a critical strain rate point (critical point) at which the polymer melt is turned to the polymer oriented crystals.

[0037] Referring to Fig. 1, the method for determining the critical elongation strain rate of the polymer melt is explained more specifically. The polymer melt 3' indicated by the broken line in Fig. 1 is a polymer melt before pressed down by the transparent boards (upper transparent board 1 and the lower transparent board 2). On the other hand, in Fig. 1, the polymer melt 3 indicated by the solid line is the polymer melt 3 after pressed down by the transparent boards (upper transparent board 1 and the lower transparent board 2). In Fig. 1, the upper transparent board 1' indicated by the broken line is the upper transparent board and its location before pressing the polymer sample 3 down. Moreover, the reference numeral "0" indicates a center point of the disc-shaped polymer sample.

[0038] It is put that the thickness direction is a direction from the lower transparent board 2 to the upper transparent board 1 (the z axis direction in Fig. 1), and a distance between the transparent boards between which the disc-shaped polymer melt 3 is the thickness of the disc-shaped polymer melt. Moreover, a distance from the center of the disc made of the polymer melt 3 is the radius.

[0039] Where the polymer melt 3' before pressing is (radius, thickness is (x0, Δz0), and is pressed down at a constant rate v, the elongation strain rate ε(x) is defined as:

Here, the polymer melt 3 is (radius, thickness) = (x, Δz) and t is time.
From Equation (1), v= - dΔz/dt ··· (2), and volume conservation: π x2Δz = π x02Δz0 ··· (3), ε(x) can be put as:

where α = v/(2Δz0 x03).

[0040] Therefore, the elongation strain rate ε(x) for the disc-shaped polymer melt of radius x can be calculated from Equation (4).

[0041] Thus, by using the crystallization apparatus to find the critical point (x*) for turning the polymer melt to the oriented crystal, and entering the value of the critical point (x*) in Equation (4), the elongation strain rate ε(x*) at the critical point, that is, the critical elongation strain rate ε*, can be determined.

[0042] This is explained below more specifically referring to Fig. 8. In Fig. 8, the reference numeral "0" corresponds to the center point "0" of the disc-shaped polymer melt in Fig. 1. As described above, the boundary between the white region and the black region indicates the critical point for turning the polymer melt to the oriented crystal. Thus, where a radius of the critical point (i.e., critical point radius) is indicated by the mark "x*" in Fig. 8. By measuring the critical point radius x*, it is possible to calculate out the critical elongation strain from Equation (4).

[0043] In Fig. 2, curves showing the relationship between the radius x of the disc-shaped polymer melt and the elongation strain rate ε (x) are illustrated. The solid curve shows results of the later-described Example (v = 3mm/sec). The broken curve shows a case where v > 3mm/sec. The dashed curve shows a case where v < 3mm/sec. Fig. 2 explains that greater v results in a more significantly greater elongation strain rate ε (x) with the radius x. Where the elongation strain rate ε (x) > critical elongation strain rate ε (x*), the elongation of the polymer molecular chain overrules the entropic relaxation, thereby causing the oriented melt, and consequently causing the bulk polymer oriented crystals. The elongation strain rate ε is not dependent on v, because the elongation strain rate ε is a point at which the elongation effect and the entropy effect cancel out each other. Thus, with greater v, the oriented melt can be prepared more efficiently.

[0044] The use of the compression-type apparatus makes it possible to observe, by a single test, how the polymer melt is crystallized at various strain rates. Further, the finding of the critical point radius allows to determine the critical elongation strain rate of the polymer melt. Because the critical elongation strain rate can be determined by a single test, it is not necessary to conduct plural tests to observe how the polymer melt is crystallized at various strain rates respectively, and thus it is possible to eliminate influence from differences between the polymer melts and test conditions (crystallization temperatures, melting temperatures, pressing rates, etc.). Therefore, it is possible to determine the critical elongation strain rate more accurately.

[0045] It should be noted that the present disclosure is not limited to the Compression-type crystallization apparatus described above, in which the polymer sample in the disc shape is placed on the flat lower transparent board 2 and then tested. The critical elongation strain rate can be determined similarly with a polymer sample in a rectangular shape. One example of the Compression-type crystallization apparatus for use in determining the critical elongation strain rate with the rectangular-shaped polymer sample is illustrated in Figs. 3. Fig. 3(a) is a side view of the crystallization apparatus. Fig. 3(b) is an upper view of the crystallization apparatus. In Figs. 3, the same members are labeled in the same manner as the Compression-type crystallization apparatus shown in Fig. 1. Their explanation is omitted here. The crystallization apparatus illustrated in Fig. 3 is configured such that a lower transparent board 2 has a recess section thereon. The recess section has a rectangular shape with a constant width (2y0). Meanwhile, an upper transparent board 1 has a protrusion section thereon, which engages with the recess section. The polymer melt may be placed in the recess section and pressed down with the protrusion section.

[0046] It is put that the thickness direction is a direction from the lower transparent board 2 to the upper transparent board 1 (the z axis direction in Figs. 3), and a distance between the transparent boards between which the rectangular-shaped polymer melt is the thickness of the rectangular-shaped polymer melt. Furthermore, a direction in which the polymer melt is elongated when it is pressed down with the upper and lower transparent boards is put as a longitudinal direction (x axis direction in Figs. 3). A direction perpendicular to the longitudinal direction and the thickness direction is put as a width direction (y axis direction in Figs. 3). Moreover, a distance between a mid point and an end of a longitudinal dimension of the rectangular-shaped polymer melt is put as a center distance.

[0047] Where the polymer melt 3' before pressing is (radius, thickness is (x'0, Δz0), the polymer melt 3 after pressing is (center distance, thickness) = (x', Δz), the elongation strain rate ε(x') for the center distance x' attained when the polymer melt 3' is pressed at a constant rate v is defined as follows:

Here, the polymer melt 3 is (center distance, thickness) = x', Δz) and t is time.
From Equation (1), v= - dΔz/dt ··· (2), and volume conservation: x'y Δz = x'0 y0Δz0 ··· (3'), y= y0, ε(x') can be put as:

where α = v/(2 x'02Δz0).

[0048] Therefore, the elongation strain rate ε(x') for the rectangular-shaped polymer melt of radius x can be calculated from Equation (4').

[0049] Thus, by finding the critical point (x'*) for turning the polymer melt to the oriented crystal a described above, and entering the value of the critical point (x'*) in Equation (4'), the elongation strain rate ε(x*) at the critical point, that is, the critical elongation strain rate ε*, can be determined.

[0050] In Fig. 4, curves showing the relationship between the center distance (x') of the rectangular-shaped polymer melt and the elongation strain rate ε (x') are illustrated. The solid curve shows results of the later-described Example (v = 3mm/sec). The broken curve shows a case where v > 3mm/sec. The dashed curve shows a case where v < 3mm/sec. Fig. 4 explains that the greater the v, the more significantly greater the elongation strain rate ε (x') with the center distance x. Where the elongation strain rate ε (x') > critical elongation strain rate ε(x'*), the
elongation of the polymer molecular chain overrules the entropic relaxation, thereby causing the oriented melt, and consequently causing the bulk polymer oriented crystals.

[0051] As explained above, the use of the polymer melt makes it possible to extend the polymer melt sample one-dimensionally. Thus, how the polymer is crystallized at various strain rates can be observed by using Equation (4'), thereby to easily determine the critical elongation strain rate ε*.

(1-2: Step of preparing oriented melt)



[0052] Next, a bulk "step of preparing oriented melt" is described, which is included in the method according to the present invention for producing the polymer oriented crystals. The step of preparing oriented melt is a step for turning the polymer melt in the oriented melt state by subjecting the polymer melt at elongation at a strain rate equal to or greater than the critical elongation strain rate ε*, which is determined in the step of determining the critical elongation strain rate.

[0053] This step is not limited to particular elongating method, elongating means, etc., provided that the polymer melt is subjected to the elongation at strain rate equal to greater than the critical elongation strain rate. One example of the step of preparing oriented melt is explained referring to Figs. 5. Figs. 5(a) and (b) are side cross sectional view of a die for use in sheet formation, film formation, injection molding, etc. of the polymer melt. The polymer melt can be turned to the oriented melt by elongating the molecular chain in the polymer melt at a strain rate equal to or greater than critical elongation strain rate when the polymer melt is extruded/injected via such a die, or when the polymer melt is treated with a roller or a mold thereafter.

[0054] Assume that the die illustrated in Fig. 5 is used and a board-shaped (rectangular column-shaped) polymer melt 21 with "length Δx0, width Δy0, and thickness Δz0" is extruded or injected out, or deformed by using the roller or mold, is deformed to a board-shaped (rectangular column-shaped) polymer melt 22 with "length Δx, width Δy, and thickness Δz" by compression or elongation carried out for time Δt. In this case, the elongation strain rate of the polymer melt is defined as:

where β is a compression ratio, and β = (Δy0Δz0)/(ΔyΔz).

[0055] The "length" is a distance between a bottom surface and an upper surface where the bottom and upper surfaces are surfaces face each other along a direction in which the polymer melt is injected. Moreover, the "width" is a length of one edge of the bottom surface or upper surface in a square shape, and the "thickness" is a length of one edge perpendicular to the edge of the "width".

[0056] Thus, the oriented melt can be prepared by performing "compression deformation" of the polymer melt with appropriately selected "width Δy0, thickness Δz0" of the polymer melt in the die, appropriately selected "width Δy, thickness Δz" of the polymer melt after the injection, extrusion, or deformation using the roller or molding, and appropriately selected Δt (time required for compression deformation).

[0057] Fig. 6 illustrates a relationship (one example) between the elongation strain rate ε and a compression ratio β obtained from Equation (5). From this, it can be understood that the oriented melt can be obtained by setting such that the time Δt required for compression deformation is 1 second or less, if the critical elongation strain rate ε* is 30s-1, and a die for giving a compression ratio β of about 30.

(1-3: Step of performing crystallization by rapid cooling)



[0058] A step of performing crystallization by rapid cooling is described below, which is included in the method according to the present disclosure for producing the bulk polymer oriented crystals. The step of performing crystallization by rapid cooling is a step of cooling the polymer melt with the oriented melt state of the polymer melt maintained. The step of performing crystallization by rapid cooling causes the molecular chains in the polymer oriented melt to meet each other, thereby causing the nucleation and crystal growth without help of heterogeneity. In this way, the polymer oriented crystals are prepared.

[0059] If the polymer melt in the oriented melt state is allow to stand, the entropy is increase according to the thermodynamic law. As a result, the polymer melt is returned to the isotropic melt. Thus, to crystallize the polymer melt with the oriented melt state maintained, it is preferable to cool the polymer melt as fast as possible. Moreover, the environmental temperature (that is, "degree of supercooling ΔT") at cooling the polymer melt is not particularly limited, provided that the temperature is lower than a melting temperature of the polymer. Especially, an optimal degree of supercooling significantly differs depending on the type of the polymer. Thus, the optimal degree of supercooling may be adopted as appropriate. For example, ΔT is preferably in a range of 20 to 60°C in the case of polypropylene. A degree of supercooling less than the preferable range would lead to significantly slow crystallization rate, thereby resulting in a low yield of the polymer oriented crystals. A degree of supercooling more than the preferable range would lead to slow diffusion of the molecular chains, thereby resulting in a low crystallization rate.

[0060] Moreover, the cooling may be carried out in a vapor phase or liquid phase. The cooling may be carried out by a method or means generally adopted in producing the polymer, or a modification thereof, as appropriate. Fig. 7(a) schematically illustrates an apparatus (one example) for use in the method according to the present invention for producing the polymer oriented crystals. This step is more specifically explained referring to this schematic view. For example, a polymer oriented melt 31 injected or extruded from a pore 32 of a die is brought to contact with a rapid cooling crystallization section 33 having a prescribed cooling temperature. With this, the polymer oriented crystals 34 are obtained in the downstream of the rapid cooling crystallization section 33. Moreover, the polymer oriented melt 31 extruded via the pore 32 may be cooled by passing the extruded polymer oriented melt 31 though a liquid (such as water) of the prescribed temperature. Moreover, the polymer oriented melt 31 extruded via the pore 32 may be cooled by exposing the extruded polymer oriented melt 31 to an environment of the prescribed cooling temperature. Moreover, the polymer oriented melt 31 extruded via the pore 32 may be cooled by bringing the extruded polymer oriented melt 31 to contact with a roller cooled to the prescribed cooling temperature. Furthermore, in case where the polymer oriented melt 31 is extruded into a mold via the die 33, the mold may be cooled to the prescribed cooling temperature.

[0061] Fig. 7(b) illustrates another example of the apparatus for use in the method according to the present invention for producing the polymer oriented crystals. The apparatus as illustrated in Fig. 7(b) is an apparatus as illustrated in Fig. 7(a) with rollers 35 for pulling out the polymer oriented melt 31. The rollers 35 may be used for cooling the polymer oriented melt 31 to the prescribed cooling temperature.

<2. Polymer oriented crystals produced by the method according to the present invention>



[0062] Polymer oriented crystals are produced by the method according to the present invention. The polymer oriented crystals are bulk polymer oriented crystals, which have not been obtained conventionally. The bulk polymer
oriented crystals are almost entirely made of close-packed shish, and are distinguishable from the conventional oriented crystal material "incomplete oriented crystal material including sparsely-existing shish and kebab that is a laminated lamellar structure surrounding shish", or a crystal that is very partially oriented like the "spiralite" discovered by the present disclosure.

[0063] Possible applications of the polymer oriented crystals produced by the method of the present invention encompass the followings, for example. The polymer oriented crystals of PP can be applied to most (90% or more) of interior parts of automobiles. Moreover, the polymer oriented crystals of PP are applicable to interior and exterior parts of conveyance machines such as automobiles, air plans, rockets, trains, ships, motorbikes, and bicycles, and parts or machine parts of machine tools, in replacement of metals. High rigidity and light weight of the polymer oriented crystals of PP make it possible to use it as diaphragm for speaker or microphone. Moreover, because it has a high transparency, the polymer oriented crystals of PP are applicable to CD and DVD in replacement of PC. Moreover, the high transparency thereof allows to use the polymer oriented crystals of PP as masks for liquid crystal/plasma displays. Moreover, with the high transparency, the
polymer oriented crystals of PP can be used for medical tools or apparatus such as disposable syringe, tools for intravenous drips, drug containers, etc. Moreover, the highly transparent polymer oriented crystals of PP are applicable to various bottles, glass, small aquarium tank for home use, large aquarium tank for business use, in replacement of glass. Moreover, the highly transparent polymer oriented crystals of PP are applicable to contact lens, glass lens, and various optical lens. Moreover, the highly transparent polymer oriented crystals of PP are applicable to glass for buildings and houses. Further, with the high rigidity, high toughness, and light weight, the polymer oriented crystals of PP can be applied to various sports goods such as ski shoes, ski boards, boards, rackets, various nets, tents, knapsacks, and the like. Moreover, the high rigidity, high toughness, and light weight thereof makes it possible to use the polymer oriented crystals of PP in handcraft tools and decorating tools such as needles, scissors, sewing machines, etc. Furthermore, the polymer oriented crystals of PP are applicable to retailing products such as show windows and store display products. Moreover, the polymer oriented crystals of PP can be used in tools or facilities in parks, amusement parks, theme parks, such as joggling boards, see-saws, roller coasters, etc. Apart from these, the polymer oriented crystals of PP are applicable to: structuring materials constituting parts of electric, electronic, information apparatus or precision instruments such as clocks or box materials thereof; stationeries such as files, folders, pen cases, writing tools, scissors, etc.: cooking tools such as knifes, bowls, etc.; wrapping materials for foods, sweets, and tobaccos; food containers, tableware, disposable chopsticks, toothpicks; furniture such as home-use furniture, office furniture, etc.; building materials, interior materials, and exterior materials for building and houses; materials for roads or bridges; materials for toys; super tensile spike fibers and strings; fishery tools, fishing nets, and fishing tools; agricultural tools, agricultural goods, shopping bags, garbage bags; various pipes; gardening supplies; and transport containers, pallets, boxes; and the like.

[0064] Meanwhile, the polymer oriented crystals of PE are applicable to super tensile spike fibers and strings.

[0065] Meanwhile, the polymer oriented crystals of fluorine polymer such as polyvinylidene fluoride have a high ferroelectricity and piezoelectricity, which enables it to be applied to highly accurate supersonic elements, fast switching elements, high performance speaker, highly sensitive microphones, and the like.

[0066] Meanwhile, the polymer oriented crystals of PET are applicable to industrial materials required to have high heat tolerance against about 200°C.

[Example]



[0067] In the following, the present invention is described more specifically referring to Example. It should be noted that the present invention is defined in the appended claims and is not limited to these Examples.

[Method]



[0068] Isotactic polypropylene (referred to as "PP" in the present Example) used in elongation crystallization was prepared by the inventors of the present invention and had Mw = 30 × 104, Mw/Mn = 7 (equilibrium melting temperature Tm0 = 187.3°C), where Mw is weight average molecular weight and Mn is number average molecular weight. It was assumed that Tm0 for Mw was identical with Tm0 of Mw determined in K. Yamada, M. Hikosaka et al, J. Mac. Sci. Part B-Physics, B42(3&4), 733 (2003).

[0069] The PP thus prepared was shaped in a disc shape and placed on a lower transparent board 2 of a Compression-type crystallization apparatus 10 (hereinafter, crystallization apparatus). Then, an upper transparent board 1 was placed on top of the disc-shaped PP. The PP under this condition was melted at a temperature of 200.0°C, to prepare a PP melt. The PP melt was then cooled down at a cooling rate of 30°C/min to a crystallization temperature Tc = 148.0 to 154.0°C (degree of supercooling ΔT = 33.3 to 39.3K). Then, the sample (PP melt) was pressured at v = 3mm/sec. After that, elongation crystallization at a constant temperature ("isothermal elongation crystallization") was observed via a polarization microscope, thereby to measure a waiting time (τ) to required to generate crystallization. Put as a melting temperature Tm is a temperature at which gradual melting occurred while the sample subjected to further elongation crystallization was kept at the constant temperature for 10 minutes or longer.

[Result]


(I. Generation of polymer oriented crystals and critical elongation strain rate ε*)



[0070] After a certain waiting time τ, a bulk polymer crystal made of significantly fine and close-packed shish occurred at once in a region on or out of radius x of 7.0mm of the disc-shaped sample (x ≥ 7.0 mm) (see Fig. 8). The shish was so fine and close-packed beyond resolution power of the microscope. The creation of such significantly-close-packed shish without adding a nucleating agent in the present Example explained that "homogeneous nucleation" occurred in the polymer oriented crystals. It has been believed that the homogeneous nucleation can be observed only in droplet melts. Remarkably, it was first time in the world that the homogeneous nucleation was observed in crystallization of bulk polymer melt. In a region inside radius of 7.0mm (x <7.0mm), spherulite appeared after a well-long time elapsed from time τ. This showed that a critical elongation strain rate ε* was present at x = 7.0mm (critical point radius x*). After the crystallization was completed, it was found that the bulk polymer oriented crystals portion were significantly high in transparency.

<II. Critical elongation strain rate ε*(x*)>



[0071] Fig. 2 illustrates curves obtained by plotting the elongation strain rates ε(x) against radius x of the disc-shaped sample. In Fig. 2, the solid curve shows the results of the present Example. The broken curve shows results obtained with v greater than that of the present Example. The dashed curve shows results obtained with v less than that of the present Example.

[0072] From Fig. 2, it was found that the elongation strain rate ε* was 30 sec-1 when the critical point radius x* = 7.0mm. This demonstrates that the elongation strain rate ε*(x*) of the PP melt was 30 sec-1.

<III. Melting temperatures of polymer oriented crystals and spherulite>



[0073] The crystallized sample illustrated in Fig. 8 was kept at 181.8°C (constant) for 10 min or longer, and observed via a polarization microscope. A polarization microscopic image is illustrated in Fig. 9. In Fig. 9, the gray portion is where the sample was not melted. The black portion is where the sample was melted. Fig. 9 demonstrates that the melting temperature in the region of x ≥ 7.0mm of the disc-shaped sample (i.e., the region where the polymer oriented crystals) was higher than that melting temperature in the region of spherulite.

[0074] The melting temperatures of the polymer oriented crystals and the spherulite were measured: they were 183.3°C and 175.0°C, respectively. The melting temperature of the polymer oriented crystals was close to Tm0 = 187.3°C (it was lower than Tm0 by just 4°C), and higher than widely known melting temperatures (approximately 170°C) of general PP spherulites by ten and several degrees. The melting temperature of the polymer oriented crystals was higher than the melting temperature of the spherulites by 8.3°C. This suggested that the polymer oriented crystals were Elongated Chain Crystal (ECC). No ECC of PP has been reported so far.

[0075] Fig. 10 is a graph plotting "an inverse number τ-1 of the waiting time τ required to occur the crystallization" against ΔT-2. In Fig. 10, the solid line shows the results of the polymer oriented crystals. The broken line shows the results of general spherulite. Here, ΔT is degree of supercooling.

[0076] From the graph in Fig. 10, the following empirical formula was obtained:

where C is a constant.

[0077] Moreover, τ-1 was equal to τ-1
in the equation τc-1 = exp (-ΔG*/kT) = exp(-C/ΔT2) ··· (7) of critical nucleation based on the well-known nucleation theory (see H.L.Frisch and C.C.Carlier, J.Chem.Phys. 10, 4326-4330, 1971). Here, ΔG* is free energy of critical nucleation and satisfies C ∝ ΔG* ··· (8). Thus, ΔG* corresponds to the gradient of the line. Here, the "critical nucleus" is an activated state that is rate-determining process in the nucleation process.

[0078] Fig. 10 also shows a plot (indicated by dashed line) of τ-1 against ΔT-2 in the homogeneous nucleation in the spherulite. In the homogeneous nucleation, C ∝ σ2σe, thus, it was satisfied that (σ2σe)Shish = 2.6 × 10-7 (J3/m6) << (σ2σe)Sph = 11.3 × 10-7 (J3/m6) ··· (10). Here, σ and σe are surface free energy on a side surface and on an end surface, respectively. The superscripts "shish" and "sph" indicate shish and spherulite, respectively. It was found that ΔG* Shish << ΔG* sph.

[0079] It can be theoretically predicted that σ and σe are significantly small in the oriented melt (for example, see Non-Patent Citations 2 and 3). Thus, can be predicted that ΔG* is significantly small. Therefore, it was showed from the above result that the "oriented melt" was obtained at strain rate equal to or grater than the critical elongation strain rate".

(VI. Conclusion)



[0080] The above-described kinetics study demonstrates that elongation crystallization at strain rate greater than or equal to at critical elongation strain rate results in oriented melt and consequently polymer oriented crystals (Shish).

(V. Tensile strength of polymer oriented crystals)



[0081] Tensile strength of the polymer oriented crystals thus produced was measured. More specifically, a sample (2mm × 5mm × 0.1mm) of the polymer oriented crystals was set in a tensile strength measuring apparatus, which the inventors of the present invention designed and created for testing small sample. The tensile strength was measured by pulling the sample at a rate at which the sample was torn in 10 to 30 seconds after the start of the pulling.

[0082] The result is shown on Table 1, where tensile strengths of the followings are also given for comparison: PE, PP (not elongated) (data of PE and not-elongated PP are from "Polypropylene Handbook, E.P.Moor, Kogyo Chosakai Publishing, Inc., 1998, P295), PET (Ikuo, NARISAWA, Mechanical Properties of Plastics, Sigma Publishing Co., Ltd., 1994, P90), metals (Aluminum (Al), brass, stainless steel, steel (SNCM7)). The data of the metals are quoted from (Iida, et al., Table of Physical Properties of Materials, Asakura Publishing Co., Ltd., 1969, P187 - 191).
Table 1
 Tensile Strength (GPa)
Polymer Oriented Crystals (PP) 0.1 - 0.15
PE 0.03 - 0.07
PP (not elongated) 0.04 - 0.06
PET 0.06
Al 0.1
Brass 0.4
Stainless Steel 0.5
Steel (SNCM7) 1


[0083] The results in Table 1 shows that the tensile strength of the polymer oriented crystals (PP) was significantly higher than these of the commercially-available PP (not elongated) and PE, and equivalent to or greater than these of PET and Al.

[0084] This confirmed that the application of the present invention to PP makes it possible to replace the engineering plastics or metals with PP, which is a general-purpose plastic.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY



[0085] As described above, the present invention defined in the appended claims makes it possible to produce polymer oriented crystals. This allows to use a general-purpose plastic to replace the engineering plastic. Thereby, the present invention can make remarkable reduction in the cost of various industrial products made of polymers. Furthermore, the present invention can give a polymer a strength equivalent to these of metals, and allows to use the polymer in replacement of the metals.

[0086] Therefore, the present invention is applicable to not only various industries using polymer parts but also industries using metal parts.


Claims

1. A method for producing polymer oriented crystals, the method comprising:

preparing an oriented melt by subjecting a polymer melt to elongation at a strain rate equal to or greater than a critical elongation strain rate so as to put the polymer melt in an oriented melt state; and

rapidly cooling the polymer oriented melt, which is obtained in the step of preparing it, to crystallize it while keeping the oriented melt state,

wherein the critical elongation strain rate is a critical elongation strain rate ε* defined as I or II below:

I A critical elongation strain rate ε* determined in such a manner that a disc-shaped polymer melt (3') of x0 in radius and Δz0 in thickness is sandwiched between transparent boards (1, 2), the polymer melt is rapidly cooled at a cooling rate of 20°C/min or faster to a constant temperature at which the polymer melt is kept supercooled wherein the degree of supercooling ΔT is 20K or greater, the polymer melt is pressed by the transparent boards in a thickness direction at a constant rate v, a critical point radius x* at which the polymer melt (3) is turned into an oriented crystal is measured, and the critical elongation strain rate ε* is calculated from an equation ε* = αx*3 where α = v/(2x03Δz0) ;

II A critical elongation strain rate ε* determined in such a manner that a rectangular-shaped polymer melt (3') of x'0 in center distance and Δz0 in thickness and with a constant width is sandwiched between transparent boards (1, 2), the polymer melt is rapidly cooled at a cooling rate of 20°C/min or faster to a constant temperature at which the polymer melt is kept supercooled wherein the degree of supercooling ΔT is 20K or greater, the polymer melt is pressed by the transparent boards in a thickness direction at a constant rate v, a critical point center distance x'* at which the polymer melt (3) is turned into an oriented crystal is measured, and the critical elongation strain rate ε* is calculated from an equation ε* = αx' *2 where α = v/(2x'02Δz0).


 
2. The method as set forth in claim 1, comprising:
determining the critical elongation strain rate of the polymer melt.
 
3. The method as set forth in claim 2, wherein:
the critical elongation strain rate is a critical elongation strain rate ε* defined as I.
 
4. The method as set forth in claim 2, wherein:
the critical elongation strain rate is a critical elongation strain rate ε* defined as II.
 
5. The method as set forth in any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the polymer melt is a polypropylene melt.
 
6. The method as set forth in claim 5, wherein the polymer melt is an isotactic polypropylene melt.
 


Ansprüche

1. Verfahren zur Herstellung von orientierten Polymerkristallen, wobei das Verfahren umfasst:

eine orientierte Schmelze wird hergestellt, indem eine Polymerschmelze bei einer Dehnungsrate gleich oder größer als eine kritische Zugdehnungsrate so gedehnt wird, dass die Polymerschmelze in einen orientierten Schmelzzustand gebracht wird; und

die orientierte Polymerschmelze, die in dem Herstellungsschritt davon erhalten wird, wird schnell gekühlt und so kristallisiert während der orientierte Schmelzzustand beibehalten wird,

wobei die kritische Zugdehnungsrate eine kritische Zugdehnungsrate ε* ist, die als I oder II wie folgt definiert ist:

I eine kritische Zugdehnungsrate ε*, die so bestimmt wird, dass eine scheibenförmige Polymerschmelze (3') mit einem Radius x0 und einer Dicke Δz0 zwischen transparenten Platten (1, 2) eingeklemmt wird, die Polymerschmelze schnell gekühlt wird bei einer Kühlrate von 20 °C/Minute oder schneller auf eine konstante Temperatur, bei der die Polymerschmelze unterkühlt gehalten wird, wobei der Unterkühlungsgrad ΔT 20 K oder mehr beträgt, die Polymerschmelze durch die transparenten Platten in einer Dickenrichtung bei einer konstanten Rate v gepresst wird, ein Radius x* eines kritischen Punkts, an dem die Polymerschmelze (3) in einen orientierten Kristall umgewandelt wird, gemessen wird und die kritische Zugdehnungsrate ε* aus der Gleichung ε* = αx*3, worin α = v/(2x03Δz0), berechnet wird;

II eine kritische Zugdehnungsrate ε*, die so bestimmt wird, dass eine rechteckig-geformte Polymerschmelze (3') mit einem Achsabstand x'0 und einer Dicke Δz0 und mit einer konstanten Breite zwischen transparenten Platten (1, 2) eingeklemmt wird, die Polymerschmelze schnell gekühlt wird bei einer Kühlrate von 20 °C/Minute oder schneller auf eine konstante Temperatur, bei der die Polymerschmelze unterkühlt gehalten wird, wobei der Unterkühlungsgrad ΔT 20 K oder mehr beträgt, die Polymerschmelze durch die transparenten Platten in einer Dickenrichtung bei einer konstanten Rate v gepresst wird, ein Achsabstand x'* eines kritischen Punkts, an dem die Polymerschmelze (3) in einen orientierten Kristall umgewandelt wird, gemessen wird und die kritische Zugdehnungsrate ε* aus der Gleichung ε* = αx'*3, worin α = v/(2x'03Δz0), berechnet wird.


 
2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, umfassend:
die kritische Zugdehnungsrate der Polymerschmelze wird bestimmt.
 
3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 2, bei dem die kritische Zugdehnungsrate eine kritische Zugdehnungsrate ε* ist, die als I definiert ist.
 
4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 2, bei dem die kritische Zugdehnungsrate eine kritische Zugdehnungsrate ε* ist, die als II definiert ist.
 
5. Verfahren nach mindestens einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, bei dem die Polymerschmelze eine Polypropylenschmelze ist.
 
6. Verfahren nach Anspruch 5, bei dem die Polymerschmelze eine isotaktische Polypropylenschmelze ist.
 


Revendications

1. Procédé de production de cristaux orientés polymère, le procédé comprenant :

la préparation d'une fusion orientée en soumettant une fusion polymère à un allongement à un taux de contrainte égal ou supérieur à un taux de contrainte d'allongement critique de façon à mettre la fusion polymère dans un état de fusion orientée ; et

le refroidissement rapide de la fusion polymère orientée, qui est obtenue à l'étape de préparation de celle-ci, pour la cristalliser tout en conservant l'état de fusion orientée,

dans lequel le taux de contrainte d'allongement critique est un taux de contrainte d'allongement critique ε* défini selon les points I ou II suivants :

I Taux de contrainte d'allongement critique ε* déterminé de telle manière qu'une fusion polymère en forme de disque (3') d'un rayon X0 et d'une épaisseur ΔZ0 est prise en sandwich entre des plaques transparentes (1, 2), la fusion polymère est rapidement refroidie à une vitesse de refroidissement de 20 °C/min ou plus rapidement à une température constante à laquelle la fusion polymère est maintenue en surfusion, dans lequel le degré de surfusion ΔT est de 20 K ou plus, la fusion polymère est comprimée par les plaques transparentes dans un sens d'épaisseur à une vitesse constante v, un rayon de point critique x* auquel la fusion polymère (3) est transformée en un cristal orienté est mesuré, et le taux de contrainte d'allongement critique ε* est calculé à partir d'une équation ε* = αx*3 où a = v/ (2x03ΔZ0) ;

II Taux de contrainte d'allongement critique ε* déterminé de telle manière qu'une fusion polymère en forme de rectangle (3') de distance x'0 par rapport à son centre et d'épaisseur ΔZ0 et avec une largeur constante est prise en sandwich entre des plaques transparentes (1, 2), la fusion polymère est rapidement refroidie à une vitesse de refroidissement de 20 °C/min ou plus rapidement à une température constante à laquelle la fusion polymère est maintenue en surfusion, dans lequel le degré de surfusion ΔT est de 20 K ou plus, la fusion polymère est comprimée par les plaques transparentes dans un sens d'épaisseur à une vitesse constante v, une distance par rapport au centre de point critique x'* à laquelle la fusion polymère (3) est transformée en cristal orienté est mesurée, et le taux de contrainte d'allongement critique ε* est calculé à partir d'une équation ε* = αx'*2 où a = v/ (2x'02ΔZ0).


 
2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, comprenant :
la détermination du taux de contrainte d'allongement critique de la fusion polymère.
 
3. Procédé selon la revendication 2, dans lequel
le taux de contrainte d'allongement critique est un taux de contrainte d'allongement critique ε* tel que défini au point I.
 
4. Procédé selon la revendication 2, dans lequel
le taux de contrainte d'allongement critique est un taux de contrainte d'allongement critique ε* tel que défini au point II.
 
5. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, dans lequel la fusion polymère est une fusion de polypropylène.
 
6. Procédé selon la revendication 5, dans lequel la fusion polymère est une fusion de polypropylène isotactique.
 




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