THE ECONOMIC TIMES
APRIL - MAY, 2008
fluorination process consists of (1 & 5): Afluorinated layer; (2 & 4): A boundarytransition layer and (3): Virgin or untreatedPlastic layer as shown in Fig. 3 from surfaceto inside.In fluorination process the majority of thechemical reactions occur within this transitionboundary layer and the majority of thephysical and chemical properties such asdensity, refractive index, and chemicalcomposition etc. of the polymer are mainlyonly changed within this layer. The layers canbe schematically represented as shown inFig. 3.
Theory of Solvent Permeation and BarrierFunction
The Permeability Coefficients (P), which is ameasure of the rate at which a particularsolvent migrates through a polymer, isdefined asP = D x Swhere (D = diffusivity coefficient, S = solubilitycoefficient)Consider the case of a solvent stored in aplastic container. The permeation of thesolvent through this container takes placedue to the four steps as given in fig. 4.Hence the permeability rate of liquidsthrough polymeric substrate / container is afunction of various parameters. The fluorination changes thecharacteristics of the polymer in terms of polarity, cohesive energy density and surfacetension. This in turn has a major effect inreducing the wetting, dissolution anddiffusion of non-polar solvents relative tothe polymer as shown in Fig. 5. Thus, fluorination is effective inminimising the permeability of non polarsolvents through a polymer surface. Sincefluorination modifies only those polymermolecules near the surface, there is nomeasurable change in the mechanicalproperties such as tensile strength and impactresistance.
Measurements of Fluorination Level
Fluorination treatment is quantified usingFourier Transformation Infra RedSpectroscopy (FTIR). C-H bond shows peak absorption at 1440 – 1480 cm
, while C-F bondgives peak absorbance at 930 – 1320 cm
. The FTIR of untreated Polyethylene (PE) is asshown in Fig. 6.As seen in Fig. 6, FTIR of untreated PE showspeak for C-H bond at 1440 – 1480 cm
Fig. 3: Layers of Fluorine on the Plastic Bottle1. Wetting of the surfaceby solvent.2. Dissolution of the solvent into the polymer.3. Diffusion of Solvent through polymer 4. De-sorption / Evaporation of the liquid through the polymer.Fig. 5: Cross-Section of fluorinated container wall showing the surface treatment
The surfacefluorination results inchange of the surfaceproperties of polymerdrastically, while thebulk properties of thepolymer remain oftenunchanged.
Fig. 4: Permeation in a polymer