Main content area

Clean preparation of tailored microcellular foams of polystyrene using nucleating agents and supercritical CO2

Gutiérrez, C., Garcia, M. T., Mencía, R., Garrido, I., Rodríguez, J. F.
Journal of materials science 2016 v.51 no.10 pp. 4825-4838
carbon dioxide, cell growth, chlorofluorocarbons, environmental impact, foaming, foams, montmorillonite, p-cymene, polystyrenes, silica, temperature, thermal conductivity, working conditions
Microcellular foams are well-known polymeric materials since they present excellent properties: high impact strength, high toughness, high stiffness-to-weight ratio, high fatigue life as well as low dielectric constant and low thermal conductivity. Environment-friendly techniques are being proposed to prepare polymeric foams. In particular, supercritical CO₂ (scCO₂) has received great attention instead of traditional blowing agents (chlorofluorocarbon hydrochlorofluorocarbons or hydrocarbons) due to its low cost and mild impact on the environment. In the foaming process proposed in this work, mild working conditions (90 bar and 30 °C) were required thanks to the presence of CO₂ and p-cymene, which benefits the nucleation and cell growth. The influence of inorganic particles (silica and montmorillonite) on the cell morphology was studied experimentally and theoretically in order to promote the simultaneous formation of the embryos, thereby reducing the average cell size and narrowing the cell size distribution. A great enhancement of the polystyrene foam homogeneity was observed, independent of the nucleating agent employed and under low temperature conditions.