Impact of hydrolytic degradation on mechanical properties of PET - Towards an understanding of microplastics formation

Type Article
Date 2019-03
Language English
Author(s) Arhant MaelORCID1, Le Gall Maelenn1, Le Gac Pierre YvesORCID1, Davies PeterORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : IFREMER, Marine Structures Laboratory, Centre de Bretagne, F-29280, France
Source Polymer Degradation And Stability (0141-3910) (Elsevier BV), 2019-03 , Vol. 161 , P. 175-182
DOI 10.1016/j.polymdegradstab.2019.01.021
WOS© Times Cited 71
Keyword(s) Hydrolysis, Polyethylene terephthalate, Mechanical properties, Molar mass, Embrittlement, Microplastics

Ocean pollution by microplastics, i.e. small pieces of plastic of less than 5 mm, is one of the major concerns for the future of our planet. Secondary microplastics formation is due to fragmentation of macroplastic waste. This fragmentation can be attributed to environmental loadings such as waves, winds and tides, coupled with a change in mechanical properties of polymers induced by UV and seawater ageing. This study aims to characterize and understand changes in the mechanical behaviour of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) induced by hydrolysis, especially for high degradation levels. Thin films (200 microns) of PET were aged in water at temperatures from 110 °C to 80 °C for up to 150 days. Embrittlement occurs with chain scission during hydrolysis when molar mass of the polymer falls below 17 kg/mol. When the polymer is brittle, i.e. for high levels of degradation, the stress at break decreases linearly with the molar mass, and can be described by a simple mathematical expression.

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