Comonomer Distribution in Polyethylenes Analysed by DSC After Thermal Fractionation

Research paper by R. A. Shanks, G. Amarasinghe

Indexed on: 01 Jan '00Published on: 01 Jan '00Published in: Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry


Ethylene copolymers exhibit a broad range of comonomer distributions. Thermal fractionation was performed on different grades of copolymers in a differential scanning calorimeter (DSC). Subsequent melting scans of fractionated polyethylenes provided a series of endothermic peaks each corresponding to a particular branch density. The DSC melting peak temperature and the area under each fraction were used to determine the branch density for each melting peak in the thermal fractionated polyethylenes. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) showed no branches whereas linear low-density polyethylenes (LLDPE) exhibited a broad range of comonomer distributions. The distributions depended on the catalyst and comonomer type and whether the polymerisation was performed in the liquid or gas phase. The DSC curves contrast the very broad range of branching in Ziegler—Natta polymers, particularly those formed in the liquid phase, with those formed by single-site catalysts. The metallocene or single-site catalysed polymers showed, as expected, a narrower distribution of branching, but broader than sometimes described. The ultra low-density polyethylenes (ULDPE) can be regarded as partially melted at room temperature thus fractionation of ULDPE should continue to sub-ambient temperatures. The thermal fractionation is shown to be useful for determining the crystallisation behaviour of polyethylene blends.