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Recycling Waste Polyester via Modification with a Renewable Fatty Acid for Enhanced Processability

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journal contribution
posted on 06.09.2018, 12:53 by Kokouvi M. Akato, Ngoc A. Nguyen, Peter V. Bonnesen, David P. Harper, Amit K. Naskar
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) waste often contains a large amount of thermally unstable contaminants and additives that negatively impacts processing. A reduced processing temperature is desired. In this work, we report using a renewably sourced tall oil fatty acid (TOFA) as a modifier for recycled PET. To that end, PET was compounded with TOFA at different concentrations and extruded at 240 °C. Phase transition behaviors characterized by thermal and dynamic mechanical analyses exhibit shifts in the melting and recrystallization temperatures of PET to lower temperatures and depression of glass transition temperature from 91 to 65 °C. Addition of TOFA also creates crystal-phase imperfection that slows recrystallization, an important processing parameter. Changes in the morphology of plasticized PET reduces and stabilizes the melt viscosity at 240 and 250 °C. Melt-spun, undrawn continuous filaments of diameter 36–46 μm made from these low-melting PET exhibit 29–38 MPa tensile strength, 2.7–2.8 GPa tensile modulus, and 20–36% elongation. These results suggest a potential path for reusing waste PET as high-performance polymeric fibers.