Synthesis, mechanical properties and chemical/solvent resistance of crosslinked poly(aryl-ether-ether-ketones) at high temperatures

by Michael E. Yurchenko , Jijun Huang, Agathe Robisson, Gareth H. McKinley, Paula T. Hammond

A synthetic two-stage procedure was developed for the synthesis of moderately crosslinked polymers based on poly(aryl-ether–ether–ketone) (PEEK). Rigid crosslinks based on aromatic imines were synthetically introduced into PEEK polymer matrix resulting in PEEK materials with various degrees of crosslinking. Two specific crosslinked PEEK polymers (5% and 10% of ketone groups crosslinked) were characterized and studied in detail. Thermomechanical properties, as well as chemical/solvent resistance of these materials at high temperatures (175–280 °C) were investigated and compared to the original PEEK material (Victrex 151G). The introduction of rigid crosslinks was shown to disrupt crystallinity of PEEK very efficiently. Because tensile properties of PEEK depend on its crystallinity, we observed a decrease in properties such as Young's modulus and the ultimate elongation, the extent of which depended on the degree of crosslinking. We also observed an improvement in the elastomeric properties of the crosslinked materials, such as decrease in initial permanent set during high temperature cyclic tensile testing. Mechanical creep behavior at high temperature also improved for crosslinked polymers vs the original commercial Victrex 151G in terms of a reduced irreversible creep component. All crosslinked materials showed excellent resistance to hot oily, acidic and basic environments, as well as excellent thermal stability. Overall, we were able to synthesize “softer” materials that are more rubbery at high temperature than commercial thermoplastic Victrex 151G; these elastomer-like materials showed promising mechanical properties for high temperature applications in hot/corrosive environments.