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Improved chemical composition separation of ethylene–propylene random copolymers by high-temperature solvent gradient interaction chromatography

Cheruthazhekatt, Sadiqali, Pasch, Harald
Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry 2013 v.405 no.26 pp. 8607-8614
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, adsorption, chemical composition, chromatography, composite polymers, desorption, ethylene, fractionation, microstructure, olefin, polyethylene, propylene, solvents
High-temperature solvent gradient interaction chromatography (HT-SGIC) is a fast and efficient fractionation technique for the chemical composition analysis of olefin copolymers. The separation of ethylene–propylene random copolymers (EPRs) was achieved on a graphitic stationary phase, Hypercarb, at 160 °C by using linear solvent gradient elution from 1-decanol to 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene (TCB). In the present work, the solvent gradient profile was modified to improve the chromatographic separation of EPRs. With the aim to obtain a better resolution in separation, a slow increase in the volume fraction of TCB was applied. This allowed for a relatively large retention region for linear polyethylene (PE) chains on the column; thereby, a broader elution volume zone between the start of the gradient and the PE elution was achieved. The efficiency of this new gradient profile was demonstrated by analysing two fully amorphous EPR samples. Clear differences in the chemical composition of these EPR samples with similar ethylene contents have been proven by using this modified solvent gradient. The comprehensive chemical composition and microstructure analysis of the SGIC-separated fractions by FTIR revealed that ethylene/propylene (EP) copolymer chains were eluted according to their ethylene/propylene contents and E or P sequence lengths, even though they are distributed in a random manner. These results showed that the solvent composition is an important factor to affect the interactive adsorption or desorption behaviour of EP chains on Hypercarb. In this way, for the first time, the determination of the complex composition and chain structure of EPR samples was achieved within short analysis time, which is not possible till now using other fractionation techniques reported.