Macromolecules, Vol.54, No.6, 2852-2861, 2021
Stable Co-Continuous PLA/PBAT Blends Compatibilized by Interfacial Stereocomplex Crystallites: Toward Full Biodegradable Polymer Blends with Simultaneously Enhanced Mechanical Properties and Crystallization Rates
Constructing stable co-continuous morphology of commercial immiscible polymer blends remains an ongoing challenge in terms of complex presynthetic routes, multiple parameter dependency, and intrinsic instability of phase morphology. Herein, we demonstrate a full biodegradable polymer blend, poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate), where hitherto inaccessible co-continuous with asymmetric compositions (70/30) can be obtained with the assistance of interfacial stereocomplex crystallites (i-SCs) through reactive blending. By taking full advantages of this unprecedented compatibilizer, nanostructured co-continuous blends with synergistically enhanced comprehensive performance are achieved. First, due to the "rigid" i-SC, co-continuous morphology is induced through a simple melt blending procedure; second, considerable augmentation of the crystallization rate of the PLA matrix is accomplished on account of the in situ formed nucleation agent (i.e., i-SC); third, a super toughened material with simultaneously enhanced tensile strength, ductility, and impact strength can be acquired, resulting from the i-SC-induced co-continuous morphology; and fourth, i-SC can function as a "rigid" supporting layer between phases even above 200 degrees C, resulting in significantly enhanced morphology stability in melt. The versatile, facile, and practical strategy offers an industrially relevant technique to fabricate super-robust and fully biobased polymer materials.