Victoria Bernardoa,∗, Judith Martin-de Leona, Ester Laguna-Gutierreza, Tiziano Catelanib, Javier Pintob, Athanassia Athanassioub, Miguel Angel Rodriguez-Pereza
a Cellular Materials Laboratory (CellMat), Condensed Matter Physics Department, University of Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain
b Nanophysics, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), Genova, Italy
Nanostructured polymer blends with CO2-philic domains can be used to produce nanocellular materials with controlled nucleation. It is well known that this nanostructuration can be induced by the addition of a block copolymer poly(methyl methacrylate)-poly(butyl acrylate)-poly(methyl methacrylate) (MAM) to a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) matrix. However, the effect of the block copolymer molecular weight on the production of nanocellular materials is still unknown. In this work, this effect is analysed by using three types of MAM triblock copolymers with different molecular weights, and a fixed blend ratio of 90 wt% PMMA and 10 wt% of MAM. Blends were produced by extrusion. As a result of the extrusion process, a non-equilibrium nanostructuration takes place in the blends, and the micelle density increases as MAM molecular weight increases. Micelle formation is proposed to occur as result of two mechanisms: dispersion, controlled by the extrusion parameters and the relative viscosities of the polymers, and self-assembly of MAM molecules in the dispersed domains. On the other hand, in the nanocellular materials produced with these blends, cell size decreases from 200 to 120 nm as MAM molecular weight increases. Cell growth is suggested to be controlled by the intermicelle distance and limited by the cell wall thickness. Furthermore, a theoretical explanation of the mechanisms underlying the limited expansion of PMMA/MAM systems is proposed and discussed.