Editor's Choice Articles

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to authors, or important in this field. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.

Order results
Result details
Results per page
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Article

Article
Coating of ZnO Nanoparticle on Cotton Fabric to Create a Functional Textile with Enhanced Mechanical Properties
Polymers 2021, 13(16), 2701; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13162701 - 13 Aug 2021
Abstract
The goal of this research is to develop a functional textile with better mechanical properties. Therefore, nano ZnO is synthesized, characterized, and applied to cotton fabric by mechanical thermo-fixation techniques. The synthesized nanoparticles are characterized by SEM and XRD analysis. The ZnO nanoparticle [...] Read more.
The goal of this research is to develop a functional textile with better mechanical properties. Therefore, nano ZnO is synthesized, characterized, and applied to cotton fabric by mechanical thermo-fixation techniques. The synthesized nanoparticles are characterized by SEM and XRD analysis. The ZnO nanoparticle alone, ZnO nanoparticle with a binder, and ZnO with a binder and wax emulsion are then applied on cotton woven fabrics using three different recipes. The surface morphology of the treated fabric is studied using SEM and EDS. Antimicrobial activity, UV protection property, and crease resistance are all tested for their functional characteristics. In addition, all vital mechanical characteristics are assessed. The results suggest that using only nano ZnO or nano ZnO with a binder enhances functional features while deteriorating mechanical capabilities. Nano ZnO treatment with the third recipe, which includes the addition of an emulsion, on the other hand, significantly enhances mechanical and functional characteristics. Consequently, this study provides information to optimize the confidence of textile researchers and producers in using nano ZnO and understanding its features in key functional fabrics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Innovative Functional Textiles)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Comparative Failure Study of Different Bonded Basalt Fiber-Reinforced Polymer (BFRP)-AL Joints in a Humid and Hot Environment
Polymers 2021, 13(16), 2593; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13162593 - 05 Aug 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) materials are increasingly used in automotive industrial fields to achieve lightweight. In order to study the influence of high temperature and high humidity on the bonding structure between different materials, this paper selects basalt fiber-reinforced resin composite materials (BFRP) and [...] Read more.
Fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) materials are increasingly used in automotive industrial fields to achieve lightweight. In order to study the influence of high temperature and high humidity on the bonding structure between different materials, this paper selects basalt fiber-reinforced resin composite materials (BFRP) and aluminum alloy (Al), and uses Araldite® 2012 and Araldite® 2014, two adhesives, to make single lap joints (SLJs). The aging test was carried out for 0 (unaged), 10, 20, and 30 days under the environment of 80 °C/95% relative humidity (RH) and 80 °C/pure water. In this work, simple Fickian law was used to simulate the hygroscopic change law of dumbbell specimens of two adhesives and BFRP in a pure water environment. It was discovered that Araldite® 2012 is most affected by moisture, but the time to reach the maximum water absorption in Araldite® 2014 was shorter than in Araldite® 2012. The failure strength of the joint was obtained through a quasi-static tensile experiment, and it was found that the Araldite® 2014 adhesive joint first increased and then decreased in a high temperature environment. The strength increased by 11.63% after 20 days of aging under an 80 °C/95%RH environment, and increased by 16.66% after 10 days of aging under an 80 °C/pure water environment, which indicates that post-curing reaction occurred. The strength of Araldite® 2012 joints showed a downward trend. After 30 days of aging, it reduced by 40.38% under an 80 °C/95%RH environment and 41.11% under an 80 °C/pure water environment. By observing the load-displacement curve, it was found that, as time increased, the slope of the curve decreased, indicating that the stiffness of the bonded joint decreased with time. The failure modes of the joints were analyzed by macroscopic images and microscopic SEM methods, and the results showed that the surface failure transitions from a mixed failure to a complete tear failure over time. The failure of the basalt fiber/resin interface was because the interaction between the epoxy resin in the adhesive and the epoxy resin in BFRP was greater than the force between the basalt fiber layer and the epoxy resin layer in the BFRP sheet. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Polymer Fibers)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Introducing Deep Eutectic Solvents as a Water-Free Dyeing Medium for Poly (1,4-cYclohexane Dimethylene Isosorbide Terephthalate) PICT Nanofibers
Polymers 2021, 13(16), 2594; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13162594 - 05 Aug 2021
Abstract
Water, one of the most priceless sources of life, is becoming dangerously threatened and contaminated due to population growth, industrial development, and climatic variations. The drainage of industrial, farming, and municipal sewage into drinking water sources pollutes the water. The textile processing industry [...] Read more.
Water, one of the most priceless sources of life, is becoming dangerously threatened and contaminated due to population growth, industrial development, and climatic variations. The drainage of industrial, farming, and municipal sewage into drinking water sources pollutes the water. The textile processing industry is one of the major consumers of water. Herein, the idea of water-free dyeing of electrospun poly (1, 4-cyclohexane dimethylene isosorbide terephthalate) PICT nanofibers is proposed. For this, two different deep eutectic solvents (DE solvents) were introduced as an alternative to water for the dyeing of PICT nanofibers in order to develop a water-free dyeing medium. For this, C.I. disperse red 167 was used as a model dye to improve the aesthetic properties of PICT nanofibers. PICT nanofibers were dyed by conventional batch dyeing and ultrasonic dyeing methods to investigate the effect of the dyeing technique on color buildup characteristics. Dyeing conditions such as dyeing time, temperature and, dye-concentration were optimized. Morphological and chemical characterization observations revealed a smooth morphology of dyed and undyed PICT nanofibers. The ultrasonically dyed nanofibers showed higher color strength and increased tensile strength compared to conventionally dyed nanofibers. Further, the consumption of electrical and thermal energy was also calculated for both processes. The results confirmed that the ultrasonic dyeing method can save 58% on electrical energy and 25% on thermal energy as compared to conventional dyeing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electrospun Nanofibers II: Theory and Its Applications)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Plant Byproducts as Part of Edible Coatings: A Case Study with Parsley, Grape and Blueberry Pomace
Polymers 2021, 13(15), 2578; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13152578 - 03 Aug 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Studies dealing with the development of edible/biodegradable packaging have been gaining popularity since these commodities are marked as being ecofriendly, especially when byproducts are incorporated. Consequently, this study aimed at the development of chitosan-based coatings with plant byproducts. Their sensory properties, colour attributes, [...] Read more.
Studies dealing with the development of edible/biodegradable packaging have been gaining popularity since these commodities are marked as being ecofriendly, especially when byproducts are incorporated. Consequently, this study aimed at the development of chitosan-based coatings with plant byproducts. Their sensory properties, colour attributes, occurrence of cracks in microstructure and biodegradability were analysed. Coatings containing grape and blueberry pomace had statistically significantly (p < 0.05) higher levels of colour intensity. Coating samples were characterised by lower aroma intensity (3.46–4.77), relatively smooth surface (2.40–5.86), and low stickiness (2.11–3.14). In the overall hedonic evaluation, the samples containing parsley pomace in all concentrations and a sample containing 5% grape pomace achieved a statistically significantly (p < 0.05) better evaluation (5.76–5.93). The lowest values of the parameter ΔE2000 were recorded for the sample containing 5% parsley pomace (3.5); the highest was for the sample with 20% blueberry pomace (39.3). An analysis of the coating surface microstructure showed the presence of surface cracks at an 80 K magnification but the protective function of the edible coating was not disrupted by the added plant pomace. The produced samples can be considered to have a high biodegradability rate. The results of our experimentally produced coatings indicate their possible application on a commercial scale. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Circular and Green Polymer Science)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Chemically Functionalized Cellulose Nanocrystals as Reactive Filler in Bio-Based Polyurethane Foams
Polymers 2021, 13(15), 2556; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13152556 - 31 Jul 2021
Abstract
Cellulose Nanocrystals, CNC, opportunely functionalized are proposed as reactive fillers in bio-based flexible polyurethane foams to improve, mainly, their mechanical properties. To overcome the cellulose hydrophilicity, CNC was functionalized on its surface by linking covalently a suitable bio-based polyol to obtain a grafted-CNC. [...] Read more.
Cellulose Nanocrystals, CNC, opportunely functionalized are proposed as reactive fillers in bio-based flexible polyurethane foams to improve, mainly, their mechanical properties. To overcome the cellulose hydrophilicity, CNC was functionalized on its surface by linking covalently a suitable bio-based polyol to obtain a grafted-CNC. The polyols grafted with CNC will react with the isocyanate in the preparation of the polyurethane foams. An attractive way to introduce functionalities on cellulose surfaces in aqueous media is silane chemistry by using functional trialkoxy silanes, X-Si (OR)3. Here, we report the synthesis of CNC-grafted-biopolyol to be used as a successful reactive filler in bio-based polyurethane foams, PUFs. The alkyl silanes were used as efficient coupling agents for the grafting of CNC and bio-polyols. Four strategies to obtain CNC-grafted-polyol were fine-tuned to use CNC as an active filler in PUFs. The effective grafting of the bio polyol on CNC was evaluated by FTIR analysis, and the amount of grafted polyol by thermogravimetric analysis. Finally, the morphological, thermal and mechanical properties and hydrophobicity of filled PUFs were thoughtfully assessed as well as the structure of the foams and, in particular, of the edges and walls of the cell foams by means of the Gibson–Ashby model. Improved thermal stability and mechanical properties of PU foams containing CNC-functionalized-polyol are observed. The morphology of the PU foams is also influenced by the functionalization of the CNC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bio-Based Materials and Natural Fillers)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Comparative Study of the Properties of Wood Flour and Wood Pellets Manufactured from Secondary Processing Mill Residues
Polymers 2021, 13(15), 2487; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13152487 - 28 Jul 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
The generation of secondary processing mill residues from wood processing facilities is extensive in the United States. Wood flour can be manufactured utilizing these residues and an important application of wood flour is as a filler in the wood–plastic composites (WPCs). Scientific research [...] Read more.
The generation of secondary processing mill residues from wood processing facilities is extensive in the United States. Wood flour can be manufactured utilizing these residues and an important application of wood flour is as a filler in the wood–plastic composites (WPCs). Scientific research on wood flour production from mill residues is limited. One of the greatest costs involved in the supply chain of WPCs manufacturing is the transportation cost. Wood flour, constrained by low bulk densities, is commonly transported by truck trailers without attaining allowable weight limits. Because of this, shipping costs often exceed the material costs, consequently increasing raw material costs for WPC manufacturers and the price of finished products. A bulk density study of wood flour (190–220 kg/m3) and wood pellets (700–750 kg/m3) shows that a tractor-trailer can carry more than three times the weight of pellets compared to flour. Thus, this study focuses on exploring the utilization of mill residues from four wood species in Maine to produce raw materials for manufacturing WPCs. Two types of raw materials for the manufacture of WPCs, i.e., wood flour and wood pellets, were produced and a study of their properties was performed. At the species level, red maple 40-mesh wood flour had the highest bulk density and lowest moisture content. Spruce-fir wood flour particles were the finest (dgw of 0.18 mm). For all species, the 18–40 wood flour mesh size possessed the highest aspect ratio. Similarly, on average, wood pellets manufactured from 40-mesh particles had a lower moisture content, higher bulk density, and better durability than the pellets from unsieved wood flour. Red maple pellets had the lowest moisture content (0.12%) and the highest bulk density (738 kg/m3). The results concluded that the processing of residues into wood flour and then into pellets reduced the moisture content by 76.8% and increased the bulk density by 747%. These material property parameters are an important attempt to provide information that can facilitate the more cost-efficient transport of wood residue feedstocks over longer distances. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Poly(Alkylene 2,5-Thiophenedicarboxylate) Polyesters: A New Class of Bio-Based High-Performance Polymers for Sustainable Packaging
Polymers 2021, 13(15), 2460; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13152460 - 27 Jul 2021
Abstract
In the present study, 100% bio-based polyesters of 2,5-thiophenedicarboxylic acid were synthesized via two-stage melt polycondensation using glycols containing 3 to 6 methylene groups. The so-prepared samples were characterised from the molecular point of view and processed into free-standing thin films. Afterward, both [...] Read more.
In the present study, 100% bio-based polyesters of 2,5-thiophenedicarboxylic acid were synthesized via two-stage melt polycondensation using glycols containing 3 to 6 methylene groups. The so-prepared samples were characterised from the molecular point of view and processed into free-standing thin films. Afterward, both the purified powders and the films were subjected to structural and thermal characterisation. In the case of thin films, mechanical response and barrier properties to O2 and CO2 were also evaluated. From the results obtained, it emerged that the length of glycolic sub-units is an effective tool to modulate the chain mobility and, in turn, the kind and amount of ordered phases developed in the samples. In addition to the usual amorphous and 3D crystalline phases, in all the samples investigated it was possible to evidence a further phase characterised by a lower degree of order (mesophase) than the crystalline one, whose amount is strictly related to the glycol sub-unit length. The relative fraction of all these phases is responsible for the different mechanical and barrier performances. Last, but not least, a comparison between thiophene-based homopolymers and their furan-based homologues was carried out. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Sustainable Polymeric Materials)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Understanding the Reinforcement of Graphene in Poly(Ether Ether Ketone)/Carbon Fibre Laminates
Polymers 2021, 13(15), 2440; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13152440 - 24 Jul 2021
Abstract
PEEK appears as an excellent candidate to substitute epoxy resins in carbon fibre laminates for high-performance aeronautical applications. The optimization of the properties and, in particular, of the transition region between the fibres and the matrix appear as a major issue prior to [...] Read more.
PEEK appears as an excellent candidate to substitute epoxy resins in carbon fibre laminates for high-performance aeronautical applications. The optimization of the properties and, in particular, of the transition region between the fibres and the matrix appear as a major issue prior to serial production. Graphene, modified with two compatibilizers, has been incorporated in the polymer layer with the purpose of imparting additional functionalities and enhancing the matrix-fibre interaction. It is found that both carbon fibres and modified graphene significantly influence the crystallization behaviour and smaller, and/or more imperfect crystals appear while the degree of crystallinity decreases. Despite this, nanoindentation studies show that the PEEK layer exhibits significant modulus improvements (≈30%) for 5 wt.% of graphene. Most importantly, the study of the local mechanical properties by nanoindentation mapping allows the identification of remarkably high modulus values close to the carbon fibre front. Such a relevant mechanical enhancement can be associated with the accumulation of graphene platelets at the polymer–fibre boundary, as revealed by electron microscopy studies. The results offer a feasible route for interlaminar mechanical improvement based on the higher density of graphene platelets at the fibre front that should promote interfacial interactions. Concerning electrical conductivity, a large anisotropy was found for all laminates, and values in the range ~10−4 S/cm were found for the through-thickness arrangement as a consequence of the good consolidation of the laminates. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Graphene-Based Polymers: From Synthesis to Applications)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Properties of Low-Cost WPCs Made from Alien Invasive Trees and rLDPE for Interior Use in Social Housing
Polymers 2021, 13(15), 2436; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13152436 - 24 Jul 2021
Abstract
Low-cost wood–plastic composites (WPCs) were developed from invasive trees and recycled low-density polyethylene. The aim was to produce affordable building materials for low-cost social housing in South Africa. Both raw materials are regarded as waste materials, and the subsequent product development adds value [...] Read more.
Low-cost wood–plastic composites (WPCs) were developed from invasive trees and recycled low-density polyethylene. The aim was to produce affordable building materials for low-cost social housing in South Africa. Both raw materials are regarded as waste materials, and the subsequent product development adds value to the resources, while simultaneously reducing the waste stream. The production costs were minimised by utilising the entire biomass of Acacia saligna salvaged from clearing operations without any prior processing, and low-grade recycled low-density polyethylene to make WPCs without any additives. Different biomass/plastic ratios, particle sizes, and press settings were evaluated to determine the optimum processing parameters to obtain WPCs with adequate properties. The water absorption, dimensional stability, modulus of rupture, modulus of elasticity, tensile strength, and tensile moduli were improved at longer press times and higher temperatures for all blending ratios. This has been attributed to the crystallisation of the lignocellulose and thermally induced cross-linking in the polyethylene. An increased biomass ratio and particle size were positively correlated with water absorption and thickness swelling and inversely related with MOR, tensile strength, and density due to an incomplete encapsulation of the biomass by the plastic matrix. This study demonstrates the feasibility of utilising low-grade recycled polyethylene and the whole-tree biomass of A. saligna, without the need for pre-processing and the addition of expensive modifiers, to produce WPCs with properties that satisfy the minimum requirements for interior cladding or ceiling material. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Developments in Eco-Friendly Wood-Based Composites II)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
PnBA-b-PNIPAM-b-PDMAEA Thermo-Responsive Triblock Terpolymers and Their Quaternized Analogs as Gene and Drug Delivery Vectors
Polymers 2021, 13(14), 2361; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13142361 - 19 Jul 2021
Abstract
In this work, the ability of thermo-responsive poly [butyl acrylate-b-N-isopropylacrylamide-b-2-(dimethylamino) ethyl acrylate] (PnBA-b-PNIPAM-b-PDMAEA) triblock terpolymer self-assemblies, as well as of their quaternized analogs (PnBA-b-PNIPAM-b-QPDMAEA), to form polyplexes with DNA through electrostatic interactions was examined. Terpolymer/DNA polyplexes were prepared in three different amine over [...] Read more.
In this work, the ability of thermo-responsive poly [butyl acrylate-b-N-isopropylacrylamide-b-2-(dimethylamino) ethyl acrylate] (PnBA-b-PNIPAM-b-PDMAEA) triblock terpolymer self-assemblies, as well as of their quaternized analogs (PnBA-b-PNIPAM-b-QPDMAEA), to form polyplexes with DNA through electrostatic interactions was examined. Terpolymer/DNA polyplexes were prepared in three different amine over phosphate group ratios (N/P), and linear DNA with a 2000 base pair length was used. In aqueous solutions, the terpolymers formed aggregates of micelles with mixed PNIPAM/(Q)PDMAEA coronas and PnBA cores. The PnBA-b-PNIPAM-b-PDMAEA terpolymers’ micellar aggregates were also examined as carriers for the model hydrophobic drug curcumin (CUR). The complexation ability of the terpolymer with DNA was studied by UV–Vis spectroscopy and fluorescence spectroscopy by investigating ethidium bromide quenching. Fluorescence was also used for the determination of the intrinsic fluorescence of the CUR-loaded micellar aggregates. The structural characteristics of the polyplexes and the CUR-loaded aggregates were investigated by dynamic and electrophoretic light scattering techniques. Polyplexes were found to structurally respond to changes in solution temperature and ionic strength, while the intrinsic fluorescence of encapsulated CUR was increased at temperatures above ambient. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Dynamic Response of Multilayered Polymer Functionally Graded Carbon Nanotube Reinforced Composite (FG-CNTRC) Nano-Beams in Hygro-Thermal Environment
Polymers 2021, 13(14), 2340; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13142340 - 16 Jul 2021
Abstract
This work studies the dynamic response of Bernoulli–Euler multilayered polymer functionally graded carbon nanotubes-reinforced composite nano-beams subjected to hygro-thermal environments. The governing equations were derived by employing Hamilton’s principle on the basis of the local/nonlocal stress gradient theory of elasticity (L/NStressG). A Wolfram [...] Read more.
This work studies the dynamic response of Bernoulli–Euler multilayered polymer functionally graded carbon nanotubes-reinforced composite nano-beams subjected to hygro-thermal environments. The governing equations were derived by employing Hamilton’s principle on the basis of the local/nonlocal stress gradient theory of elasticity (L/NStressG). A Wolfram language code in Mathematica was written to carry out a parametric investigation on the influence of different parameters on their dynamic response, such as the nonlocal parameter, the gradient length parameter, the mixture parameter and the hygro-thermal loadings and the total volume fraction of CNTs for different functionally graded distribution schemes. It is shown how the proposed approach is able to capture the dynamic behavior of multilayered polymer FG-CNTRC nano-beams under hygro-thermal environments. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Effect of Foaming Formulation and Operating Pressure on Thermoregulating Polyurethane Foams
Polymers 2021, 13(14), 2328; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13142328 - 15 Jul 2021
Abstract
The synthesis of rigid polyurethane (RPU) foams containing thermoregulatory microcapsules has been carried out under reduced pressure conditions with a new foaming formulation to reduce the final composite densities. These optimized RPU foams were able to overpass the drawbacks exhibited by the previous [...] Read more.
The synthesis of rigid polyurethane (RPU) foams containing thermoregulatory microcapsules has been carried out under reduced pressure conditions with a new foaming formulation to reduce the final composite densities. These optimized RPU foams were able to overpass the drawbacks exhibited by the previous composites over the studied temperature range, working as insulating and thermal energy storage materials. The change in the formulation allowed to decrease the final foam density and enhance their mechanical strength. The effect of the operating pressure (atmospheric, 800 mbar, and 700 mbar) and microcapsules content (up to 30 wt%) on the physical, mechanical, and thermal PU foam properties was studied. The reduction of the pressure from atmospheric to 800 mbar did not have any effect on the cell size, strut thickness, and compression strength 10% of deformation, the Young modulus being even higher at 800 mbar. Nevertheless, a strong impact on the microstructure and mechanical properties was observed for the foam composites obtained at 700 mbar. A deleterious impact on the RPU foams thermal conductivity was observed when using low-pressure conditions. Thermal analyses showed that a composite able to work as heat accumulator and thermal insulation both at transient and at steady state was achieved. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polyurethane Foams: Current Advances and Future Perspectives)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
A Fatigue Damage Model for Life Prediction of Injection-Molded Short Glass Fiber-Reinforced Thermoplastic Composites
Polymers 2021, 13(14), 2250; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13142250 - 09 Jul 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Short glass fiber-reinforced (SGFR) thermoplastics are used in many industries manufactured by injection molding which is the most common technique for polymeric parts production. Glass fibers are commonly used as the reinforced material with thermoplastics and injection molding. In this paper, a critical [...] Read more.
Short glass fiber-reinforced (SGFR) thermoplastics are used in many industries manufactured by injection molding which is the most common technique for polymeric parts production. Glass fibers are commonly used as the reinforced material with thermoplastics and injection molding. In this paper, a critical plane-based fatigue damage model is proposed for tension–tension or tension–compression fatigue life prediction of SGFR thermoplastics considering fiber orientation and mean stress effects. Temperature and frequency effects were also included by applying the proposed damage model into a general fatigue model. Model predictions are presented and discussed by comparing with the experimental data from the literature. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Simple Preparation of Polydimethylsiloxane and Polyurethane Blend Film for Marine Antibiofouling Application
Polymers 2021, 13(14), 2242; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13142242 - 08 Jul 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
A key way to prevent undesirable fouling of any structure in the marine environment, without harming any microorganisms, is to use a polymer film with high hydrophobicity. The polymer film, which was simply prepared from a blend of hydrophobic polydimethylsiloxane elastomer and hydrophilic [...] Read more.
A key way to prevent undesirable fouling of any structure in the marine environment, without harming any microorganisms, is to use a polymer film with high hydrophobicity. The polymer film, which was simply prepared from a blend of hydrophobic polydimethylsiloxane elastomer and hydrophilic polyurethane, showed improved properties and economic viability for antifouling film for the marine industry. The field emission scanning electron microscope and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (FESEM and EDX) results from the polymer blend suggested a homogenous morphology and good distribution of the polyurethane disperse phase. The PDMS:PU blend (95:5) film gave a water contact angle of 103.4° ± 3.8° and the PDMS film gave a water contact angle of 109.5° ± 4.2°. Moreover, the PDMS:PU blend (95:5) film could also be modified with surface patterning by using soft lithography process to further increase the hydrophobicity. It was found that PDMS:PU blend (95:5) film with micro patterning from soft lithography process increased the contact angle to 128.8° ± 1.6°. The results from a field test in the Gulf of Thailand illustrated that the bonding strength between the barnacles and the PDMS:PU blend (95:5) film (0.07 MPa) were lower than the bonding strength between the barnacles and the carbon steel (1.16 MPa). The barnacles on the PDMS:PU blend (95:5) film were more easily removed from the surface. This indicated that the PDMS:PU blend (95:5) exhibited excellent antifouling properties and the results indicated that the PDMS:PU blend (95:5) film with micro patterning surface could be employed for antifouling application. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Functional Polymer Coatings II)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Non Edible Oil-Based Epoxy Resins from Jatropha Oil and Their Shape Memory Behaviors
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2177; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132177 - 30 Jun 2021
Abstract
The use of bio-based polymers in place of conventional polymers gives positives effects in the sense of reduction of environmental impacts and the offsetting of petroleum consumption. As such, in this study, jatropha oil was used to prepare epoxidized jatropha oil (EJO) by [...] Read more.
The use of bio-based polymers in place of conventional polymers gives positives effects in the sense of reduction of environmental impacts and the offsetting of petroleum consumption. As such, in this study, jatropha oil was used to prepare epoxidized jatropha oil (EJO) by the epoxidation method. The EJO was used to prepare a shape memory polymer (SMP) by mixing it with the curing agent 4-methylhexahydrophthalic anhydride (MHPA) and a tetraethylammonium bromide (TEAB) catalyst. The resulting bio-based polymer is slightly transparent and brown in color. It has soft and flexible properties resulting from the aliphatic chain in jatropha oil. The functionality of SMP was analyzed by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy analysis. The thermal behavior of the SMP was measured by thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), and it showed that the samples were thermally stable up to 150 °C. Moreover, the glass transition temperature characteristic was obtained using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) analysis. The shape memory recovery behavior was investigated. Overall, EJO/MHPA was prepared by a relatively simple method and showed good shape recovery properties. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Additive Manufacturing of Bio and Synthetic Polymers)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Effect of Cellulose Nanocrystal Suspension Treatment on Suspension Viscosity and Casted Film Property
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2168; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132168 - 30 Jun 2021
Abstract
Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) have attracted significant interest in different industrial sectors. Many applications have been developed and more are being explored. Pre-treatment of the suspension plays a critical role for different applications. In this study, different pre-treatment methods, including homogenization, ultrasonication, and mixing [...] Read more.
Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) have attracted significant interest in different industrial sectors. Many applications have been developed and more are being explored. Pre-treatment of the suspension plays a critical role for different applications. In this study, different pre-treatment methods, including homogenization, ultrasonication, and mixing with a magnetic stirrer were applied to a CNC suspension. After treatment, the rheological behaviors of the treated CNC suspensions were characterized using a rotational viscometer. The treated suspensions were then used to cast films for characterization by ultraviolet-visible (UV-Vis) and Fourier transform near-infrared spectroscopy (FT-NIR). All the CNC suspensions demonstrated a shear thinning phenomena. Homogenization or ultrasonication significantly decreased the suspension viscosity compared with the suspension mixed by a magnetic stirrer. The viscosity of CNC suspension changed with time after treatment and settlement of treated CNC suspensions in room conditions increased the viscosity dramatically with time. Different UV and visible light interferences were observed for the CNC films generated from suspensions treated by different methods. The degree of crystallinity of the CNC films evaluated by FT-NIR showed that the film from suspension treated by homogenization and ultrasonication has the highest degree of crystallinity. Pre-treatments of CNC suspension affected the suspension viscosities and formed film properties. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Antimicrobial Polymeric Composites with Embedded Nanotextured Magnesium Oxide
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2183; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132183 - 30 Jun 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Nanotextured magnesium oxide (MgO) can exhibit both antibacterial and tissue regeneration activity, which makes it very useful for implant protection. To successfully combine these two properties, MgO needs to be processed within an appropriate carrier system that can keep MgO surface available for [...] Read more.
Nanotextured magnesium oxide (MgO) can exhibit both antibacterial and tissue regeneration activity, which makes it very useful for implant protection. To successfully combine these two properties, MgO needs to be processed within an appropriate carrier system that can keep MgO surface available for interactions with cells, slow down the conversion of MgO to the less active hydroxide and control MgO solubility. Here we present new composites with nanotextured MgO microrods embedded in different biodegradable polymer matrixes: poly-lactide-co-glycolide (PLGA), poly-lactide (PLA) and polycaprolactone (PCL). Relative to their hydrophilicity, polarity and degradability, the matrices were able to affect and control the structural and functional properties of the resulting composites in different manners. We found PLGA matrix the most effective in performing this task. The application of the nanotextured 1D morphology and the appropriate balancing of MgO/PLGA interphase interactions with optimal polymer degradation kinetics resulted in superior bactericidal activity of the composites against either planktonic E. coli or sessile S. epidermidis, S. aureus (multidrug resistant-MRSA) and three clinical strains isolated from implant-associated infections (S. aureus, E. coli and P. aeruginosa), while ensuring controllable release of magnesium ions and showing no harmful effects on red blood cells. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polymeric Biomaterials of Natural and Synthetic Origin)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Atomic Scale Mechanisms Controlling the Oxidation of Polyethylene: A First Principles Study
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2143; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132143 - 29 Jun 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Understanding the degradation mechanisms of aliphatic polymers by thermal oxidation and radio-oxidation is very important in order to assess their lifetime in a variety of industrial applications. We focus here on polyethylene as a prototypical aliphatic polymer. Kinetic models describing the time evolution [...] Read more.
Understanding the degradation mechanisms of aliphatic polymers by thermal oxidation and radio-oxidation is very important in order to assess their lifetime in a variety of industrial applications. We focus here on polyethylene as a prototypical aliphatic polymer. Kinetic models describing the time evolution of the concentration of chain defects and radicals species in the material identify a relevant step in the formation and subsequent decomposition of transient hydroperoxides species, finally leading to carbonyl defects, in particular ketones. In this paper, we first summarize the most relevant mechanistic paths proposed in the literature for hydroperoxide formation and decomposition and, second, revisit them using first principles calculations based on Density Functional Theory (DFT). Our results partially confirm commonly accepted reaction energies, but also propose alternative, more favourable, reaction paths. We highlight the influence of the environment—crystalline or not—on the outcome of some of the studied chemical reactions. A remarkable result of our calculations is that hydroxyl radicals play an important role in the decomposition of hydroperoxides. Based on our findings, it should be possible to improve the set of equations and parameters used in current kinetic simulations of polyethylene radio-oxidation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Polymer Physics and Theory)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Utilization of Polymer Concrete Composites for a Circular Economy: A Comparative Review for Assessment of Recycling and Waste Utilization
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2135; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132135 - 29 Jun 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Polymer composites have been identified as the most innovative and selective materials known in the 21st century. Presently, polymer concrete composites (PCC) made from industrial or agricultural waste are becoming more popular as the demand for high-strength concrete for various applications is increasing. [...] Read more.
Polymer composites have been identified as the most innovative and selective materials known in the 21st century. Presently, polymer concrete composites (PCC) made from industrial or agricultural waste are becoming more popular as the demand for high-strength concrete for various applications is increasing. Polymer concrete composites not only provide high strength properties but also provide specific characteristics, such as high durability, decreased drying shrinkage, reduced permeability, and chemical or heat resistance. This paper provides a detailed review of the utilization of polymer composites in the construction industry based on the circular economy model. This paper provides an updated and detailed report on the effects of polymer composites in concrete as supplementary cementitious materials and a comprehensive analysis of the existing literature on their utilization and the production of polymer composites. A detailed review of a variety of polymers, their qualities, performance, and classification, and various polymer composite production methods is given to select the best polymer composite materials for specific applications. PCCs have become a promising alternative for the reuse of waste materials due to their exceptional performance. Based on the findings of the studies evaluated, it can be concluded that more research is needed to provide a foundation for a regulatory structure for the acceptance of polymer composites. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polymers and the Circular Economy Model)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Electrospun Nanosystems Based on PHBV and ZnO for Ecological Food Packaging
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2123; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132123 - 28 Jun 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
The electrospun nanosystems containing poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) and 1 wt% Fe doped ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) (with the content of dopant in the range of 0–1 wt% Fe) deposited onto polylactic acid (PLA) film were prepared for food packaging application. They were investigated by scanning [...] Read more.
The electrospun nanosystems containing poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) and 1 wt% Fe doped ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) (with the content of dopant in the range of 0–1 wt% Fe) deposited onto polylactic acid (PLA) film were prepared for food packaging application. They were investigated by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive X-ray (EDX), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), X-ray diffraction (XRD), antimicrobial analysis, and X-ray photoelectron spectrometry (XPS) techniques. Migration studies conducted in acetic acid 3% (wt/wt) and ethanol 10% (v/v) food simulants as well as by the use of treated ashes with 3% HNO3 solution reveal that the migration of Zn and Fe falls into the specific limits imposed by the legislation in force. Results indicated that the PLA/PHBV/ZnO:Fex electrospun nanosystems exhibit excellent antibacterial activity against the Pseudomonas aeruginosa (ATCC-27853) due to the generation of a larger amount of perhydroxyl (˙OOH) radicals as assessed using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy coupled with a spin trapping method. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polyester-Based Materials)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Elastin-Plasma Hybrid Hydrogels for Skin Tissue Engineering
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2114; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132114 - 28 Jun 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Dermo-epidermal equivalents based on plasma-derived fibrin hydrogels have been extensively studied for skin engineering. However, they showed rapid degradation and contraction over time and low mechanical properties which limit their reproducibility and lifespan. In order to achieve better mechanical properties, elasticity and biological [...] Read more.
Dermo-epidermal equivalents based on plasma-derived fibrin hydrogels have been extensively studied for skin engineering. However, they showed rapid degradation and contraction over time and low mechanical properties which limit their reproducibility and lifespan. In order to achieve better mechanical properties, elasticity and biological properties, we incorporated a elastin-like recombinamer (ELR) network, based on two types of ELR, one modified with azide (SKS-N3) and other with cyclooctyne (SKS-Cyclo) chemical groups at molar ratio 1:1 at three different SKS (serine-lysine-serine sequence) concentrations (1, 3, and 5 wt.%), into plasma-derived fibrin hydrogels. Our results showed a decrease in gelation time and contraction, both in the absence and presence of the encapsulated human primary fibroblasts (hFBs), higher mechanical properties and increase in elasticity when SKSs content is equal or higher than 3%. However, hFBs proliferation showed an improvement when the lowest SKS content (1 wt.%) was used but started decreasing when increasing SKS concentration at day 14 with respect to the plasma control. Proliferation of human primary keratinocytes (hKCs) seeded on top of the hybrid-plasma hydrogels containing 1 and 3% of SKS showed no differences to plasma control and an increase in hKCs proliferation was observed for hybrid-plasma hydrogels containing 5 wt.% of SKS. These promising results showed the need to achieve a balance between the reduced contraction, the better mechanical properties and biological properties and indicate the potential of using this type of hydrogel as a testing platform for pharmaceutical products and cosmetics, and future work will elucidate their potential. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Easy-to-Make Polymer Hydrogels by UV-Curing for the Cleaning of Acrylic Emulsion Paint Films
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2108; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132108 - 26 Jun 2021
Abstract
The cleaning of acrylic emulsion paint surfaces poses a great challenge in the conservation field, due to their high water sensitivity. In this article, we present easy-to-make polymer hydrogels, made by UV-photopolymerization, that show excellent cleaning properties. The formulation of hydrogels obtained by [...] Read more.
The cleaning of acrylic emulsion paint surfaces poses a great challenge in the conservation field, due to their high water sensitivity. In this article, we present easy-to-make polymer hydrogels, made by UV-photopolymerization, that show excellent cleaning properties. The formulation of hydrogels obtained by UV-curing and their performance as dry cleaners for acrylic paints was investigated. First, different hydrogel formulations based on functional acrylic monomers were used to formulate a series of UV cross-linked hydrogels by fast UV photopolymerization. Their effectiveness on surface dirt removal was investigated by SEM microscopy and colorimetry. The hydrogels showed excellent cleaning properties and controlled water release, and they still performed satisfactorily after several cleaning uses. The obtained UV-hydrogels were compared to the well-known agar gels, showing benefits in terms of reducing excess water. This article shows that easy-to-make UV-cured hydrogels are an efficient tool for the cleaning of surface dirt from water-sensitive paintings, overcoming the limits of traditional cleaning methods. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue State-of-the-Art Polymer Science and Technology in Spain (2020,2021))
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Optimization of Alternating Current Electrospun PA 6 Solutions Using a Visual Analysis System
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2098; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132098 - 25 Jun 2021
Abstract
The electrospinning process that produces fine nanofibrous materials have a major disadvantage in the area of productivity. However, alternating current (AC) electrospinning might help to solve the problem via the modification of high voltage signal. The aforementioned productivity aspect can be observed via [...] Read more.
The electrospinning process that produces fine nanofibrous materials have a major disadvantage in the area of productivity. However, alternating current (AC) electrospinning might help to solve the problem via the modification of high voltage signal. The aforementioned productivity aspect can be observed via a camera system that focuses on the jet creation area and that measures the average lifespan. The paper describes the optimization of polyamide 6 (PA 6) solutions and demonstrates the change in the behavior of the process following the addition of a minor dose of oxoacid. This addition served to convert the previously unspinnable (using AC) solution to a high-quality electrospinning solution. The visual analysis of the AC electrospinning of polymeric solutions using a high-speed camera and a programmable power source was chosen as the method for the evaluation of the quality of the process. The solutions were exposed to high voltage applying two types of AC signal, i.e., the sine wave and the step change. All the recordings presented in the paper contained two sets of data: firstly, camera recordings that showed the visual expression of electrospinning and, secondly, signal recordings that provided information on the data position in the signal function. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Polymer Analysis and Characterization)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Development and Characterization of Electrospun Fiber-Based Poly(ethylene-co-vinyl Alcohol) Films of Application Interest as High-Gas-Barrier Interlayers in Food Packaging
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2061; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132061 - 23 Jun 2021
Abstract
In the present study, poly(ethylene-co-vinyl alcohol) with 44 mol % ethylene content (EVOH44) was managed to be processed, for the first time, by electrospinning assisted by the coaxial technology of solvent jacket. In addition to this, different suspensions of [...] Read more.
In the present study, poly(ethylene-co-vinyl alcohol) with 44 mol % ethylene content (EVOH44) was managed to be processed, for the first time, by electrospinning assisted by the coaxial technology of solvent jacket. In addition to this, different suspensions of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), with contents ranging from 0.1 to 1.0 wt %, were also electrospun to obtain hybrid bio-/non-bio nanocomposites. The resultant fiber mats were thereafter optimally annealed to promote interfiber coalescence at 145 °C, below the EVOH44 melting point, leading to continuous transparent fiber-based films. The morphological analysis revealed the successful distribution of CNCs into EVOH44 up to contents of 0.5 wt %. The incorporation of CNCs into the ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer caused a decrease in the crystallization and melting temperatures (TC and Tm) of about 12 and 7 °C, respectively, and also crystallinity. However, the incorporation of CNCs led to enhanced thermal stability of the copolymer matrix for a nanofiller content of 1.0 wt %. Furthermore, the incorporation of 0.1 and 0.5 wt % CNCs produced increases in the tensile modulus (E) of ca. 38% and 28%, respectively, but also yielded a reduction in the elongation at break and toughness. The oxygen barrier of the hybrid nanocomposite fiber-based films decreased with increasing the CNCs content, but they were seen to remain high barrier, especially in the low relative humidity (RH) regime, i.e., at 20% RH, showing permeability values lower than 0.6 × 10−20 m3·m·m−2·Pa−1·s−1. In general terms, an optimal balance in physical properties was found for the hybrid copolymer composite with a CNC loading of 0.1 wt %. On the overall, the present study demonstrates the potential of annealed electrospun fiber-based high-barrier polymers, with or without CNCs, to develop novel barrier interlayers to be used as food packaging constituents. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polymeric Synthetic Fibres)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Improved Ablative Properties of Nanodiamond-Reinforced Carbon Fiber–Epoxy Matrix Composites
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2035; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13132035 - 22 Jun 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
The influence of nanodiamonds (NDs) on the thermal and ablative performance of carbon-fiber-reinforced–epoxy matrix compositeswas explored. The ablative response of the composites with 0.2 wt% and 0.4 wt% NDs was studied through pre-and post-burning morphologies of the composite surfaces by evaluation of temperature [...] Read more.
The influence of nanodiamonds (NDs) on the thermal and ablative performance of carbon-fiber-reinforced–epoxy matrix compositeswas explored. The ablative response of the composites with 0.2 wt% and 0.4 wt% NDs was studied through pre-and post-burning morphologies of the composite surfaces by evaluation of temperature profiles, weight loss, and erosion rate. Composites containing 0.2 wt% NDs displayed a 10.5% rise in erosion resistance, whereas composites containing 0.4 wt% NDs exhibited a 12.6% enhancement in erosion resistance compared to neat carbon fiber–epoxy composites. A similar trend was witnessed in the thermal conductivity of composites. Incorporation of composites with 0.2 wt% and 0.4 wt% NDs brought about an increase of 37 wt% and 52 wt%, respectively. The current study is valuable for the employment of NDs in carbon fiber composite applications where improved erosion resistance is necessary. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polymer-Based Nanocomposites: Processing to Advance Applications)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Conductive Polymer (Graphene/PPy)–BiPO4 Composite Applications in Humidity Sensors
Polymers 2021, 13(12), 2013; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13122013 - 20 Jun 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
In this particular experiment, a chain of conductive polymer graphene/polypyrrole (Gr/PPy) and BiPO4—or (Gr/PPy)–BiPO4—materials were prepared and used as moisture-sensitive materials. The structure and morphology of the conductive polymer (Gr/PPy)–BiPO4 materials were analyzed using an X-ray diffractometer, scanning [...] Read more.
In this particular experiment, a chain of conductive polymer graphene/polypyrrole (Gr/PPy) and BiPO4—or (Gr/PPy)–BiPO4—materials were prepared and used as moisture-sensitive materials. The structure and morphology of the conductive polymer (Gr/PPy)–BiPO4 materials were analyzed using an X-ray diffractometer, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. Moreover, properties such as hysteresis loop, impedance, sensing response, and response and recovery time were calculated and evaluated using an inductance–capacitance–resistance analyzer. The data expressed that PPy/BiPO4, as prepared in this study, exhibited excellent sensing properties, with impedance changing by only a few orders of range. Furthermore, the response time and time of recovery were 340 s and 60 s, respectively, and negligible humidity hysteresis occurred at different relative humidities. Therefore, conductive PPy/BiPO4, as prepared in the present study, is an excellent candidate for application in humidity sensors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Polymer Applications)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Programmable Invisible Photonic Patterns with Rapid Response Based on Two-Dimensional Colloidal Crystals
Polymers 2021, 13(12), 1926; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13121926 - 10 Jun 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
The development of invisible patterns via programmable patterning can lead to promising applications in optical encryption. This study reports a facile method for building responsive photonic crystal patterns. Commercially printed patterns were used as a mask to induce invisible patterns revealed by wetting. [...] Read more.
The development of invisible patterns via programmable patterning can lead to promising applications in optical encryption. This study reports a facile method for building responsive photonic crystal patterns. Commercially printed patterns were used as a mask to induce invisible patterns revealed by wetting. The masked areas exhibit different swelling kinetics, leading to strong structural colors in the masked area and transparent features in the unmasked area. The contrast could disappear through different wetting behavior, providing a unique and reversible wetting feature. This programmable printing is expected to become an environmentally friendly technique for scalable invisible optical anti-counterfeiting technology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Polymer Applications)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Effect of Yerba Mate and Silk Fibroin Nanoparticles on the Migration Properties in Ethanolic Food Simulants and Composting Disintegrability of Recycled PLA Nanocomposites
Polymers 2021, 13(12), 1925; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13121925 - 10 Jun 2021
Abstract
The main objective of the present research is to study the effect of the incorporation of low amounts of silk fibroin nanoparticles (SFNs) and yerba mate nanoparticles (YMNs) on the migration phenomenon into ethanolic food simulants as well as on the disintegrability under [...] Read more.
The main objective of the present research is to study the effect of the incorporation of low amounts of silk fibroin nanoparticles (SFNs) and yerba mate nanoparticles (YMNs) on the migration phenomenon into ethanolic food simulants as well as on the disintegrability under composting conditions of mechanically recycled polylactic acid (PLA). Recycled PLA was obtained under simulated recycling conditions by melt processing virgin PLA into films and further subjecting them to an accelerated aging process, which involved photochemical, thermal, and hydrothermal aging steps followed by an intense washing step. SFNs were extracted from Bombyx mori cocoons and YMNs from yerba mate waste. Then, recycled PLA was melted, reprocessed, and reinforced with either 1%wt. of SFNs or YMNs, by melt extrusion, and further processed into films by compression molding. The obtained nanocomposites were exposed to ethanolic food simulants (ethanol 10% v/v, simulant A and ethanol 50% v/v, simulant D1) and the structural, thermal, and mechanical properties were studied before and after the exposure to the food simulants. The migration levels in both food simulants were below the overall migration limits required for food contact materials. The materials were disintegrated under simulated composting conditions at the laboratory scale level and it was observed that the nanoparticles delayed the disintegration rate of the recycled PLA matrix, but nanocomposites were fully disintegrated in less than one month. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Biocomposites and Bioplastics)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Hybrid Microporous Polymeric Materials with Outstanding Permeability and Increased Gas Transport Stability: PTMSP Aging Prevention by Sorption of the Polymerization Catalyst on HCPS
Polymers 2021, 13(12), 1922; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13121922 - 09 Jun 2021
Abstract
The influence of hyper-crosslinked polystyrene (HCPS) MacronetTM MN200 on the gas transport properties and aging of the highly permeable glassy polymer poly(1-trimethylsilyl-1-propyne) (PTMSP) was studied and analyzed in detail. The gas transport characteristics of dense PTMSP membranes containing 0–10.0 wt % HCPS [...] Read more.
The influence of hyper-crosslinked polystyrene (HCPS) MacronetTM MN200 on the gas transport properties and aging of the highly permeable glassy polymer poly(1-trimethylsilyl-1-propyne) (PTMSP) was studied and analyzed in detail. The gas transport characteristics of dense PTMSP membranes containing 0–10.0 wt % HCPS were studied. It was shown that the introduction of a small amount of HCPS into the PTMSP matrix led to a 50–60% increase of the permeability coefficients of the material for light gases (N2, O2, CO2) and slowed down the deterioration of polymer transport properties over time. The lowest reduction in gas permeability coefficients (50–57%) was found for PTMSP containing HCPS 5.0 wt % after annealing at 100 °C for 300 h. It was found that HCPS sorbed residues of tantalum-based polymerization catalyst from PTMSP. In order to investigate the influence of catalysts on transport and physical properties of PTMSP, we purified the latter from the polymerization catalyst by addition of 5 wt % HCPS into polymer/chloroform solution. It was shown that sorption on HCPS allowed for almost complete removal of tantalum compounds from PTMSP. The membrane made of PTMSP purified by HCPS demonstrated more stable transport characteristics compared to the membrane made of the initial polymer. HCPS has a complex effect on the aging process of PTMSP. The introduction of HCPS into the polymer matrix not only slowed down the physical aging of PTMSP, but also reduced chemical aging due to removal of active reagents. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Polymeric Materials for Membrane Technology)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Displacement Rate Effects on the Mode II Shear Delamination Behavior of Carbon Fiber/Epoxy Composites
Polymers 2021, 13(11), 1881; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13111881 - 06 Jun 2021
Abstract
This paper studies the influence of displacement rate on mode II delamination of unidirectional carbon/epoxy composites. End-notched flexure test is performed at displacement rates of 1, 10, 100 and 500 mm/min. Experimental results reveal that the mode II fracture toughness GIIC increases [...] Read more.
This paper studies the influence of displacement rate on mode II delamination of unidirectional carbon/epoxy composites. End-notched flexure test is performed at displacement rates of 1, 10, 100 and 500 mm/min. Experimental results reveal that the mode II fracture toughness GIIC increases with the displacement, with a maximum increment of 45% at 100 mm/min. In addition, scanning electron micrographs depict that fiber/matrix interface debonding is the major damage mechanism at 1 mm/min. At higher speeds, significant matrix-dominated shear cusps are observed contributing to higher GIIC. Besides, it is demonstrated that the proposed rate-dependent model is able to fit the experimental data from the current study and the open literature generally well. The mode II fracture toughness measured from the experiment or deduced from the proposed model can be used in the cohesive element model to predict failure. Good agreement is found between the experimental and numerical results, with a maximum difference of 10%. The numerical analyses indicate crack jump occurs suddenly after the peak load is attained, which leads to the unstable crack propagation seen in the experiment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mechanics of Polymer and Polymer Composite Materials and Structures)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Influence of the Impregnation Technique on the Release of Esomeprazole from Various Bioaerogels
Polymers 2021, 13(11), 1882; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13111882 - 06 Jun 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
The presented study shows the possibility of using bioaerogels, namely neat alginate, pectin, chitosan aerogels, and alginate and pectin aerogels coated with chitosan, as drug delivery systems for esomeprazole. Two different techniques were used for the impregnation of esomeprazole: Supercritical impregnation, and diffusion [...] Read more.
The presented study shows the possibility of using bioaerogels, namely neat alginate, pectin, chitosan aerogels, and alginate and pectin aerogels coated with chitosan, as drug delivery systems for esomeprazole. Two different techniques were used for the impregnation of esomeprazole: Supercritical impregnation, and diffusion via ethanol during the sol-gel synthesis. The prepared samples were characterized by employing N2 adsorption-desorption analysis, TGA/DSC, and FTIR. The achieved loadings were satisfactory for all the tested samples and showed to be dependent on the technique used for impregnation. In all cases, higher loadings were achieved when impregnation via diffusion from ethanol was used. Extensive release studies were performed for all impregnated samples. The in vitro dissolution profiles were found to be dependent on the carrier and impregnation method used. Most importantly, in all cases more controlled and delayed release was achieved with the bioaerogels compared to using pure esomeprazole. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Enhancing Pervaporation Membrane Selectivity by Incorporating Star Macromolecules Modified with Ionic Liquid for Intensification of Lactic Acid Dehydration
Polymers 2021, 13(11), 1811; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13111811 - 31 May 2021
Abstract
Modification of polymer matrix by hybrid fillers is a promising way to produce membranes with excellent separation efficiency due to variations in membrane structure. High-performance membranes for the pervaporation dehydration were produced by modifying poly(2,6-dimethyl-1,4-phenylene oxide) (PPO) to facilitate lactic acid purification. Ionic [...] Read more.
Modification of polymer matrix by hybrid fillers is a promising way to produce membranes with excellent separation efficiency due to variations in membrane structure. High-performance membranes for the pervaporation dehydration were produced by modifying poly(2,6-dimethyl-1,4-phenylene oxide) (PPO) to facilitate lactic acid purification. Ionic liquid (IL), heteroarm star macromolecules (HSM), and their combination (IL:HSM) were employed as additives to the polymer matrix. The composition and structure of hybrid membranes were characterized by X-ray diffraction and FTIR spectroscopy. Scanning electron microscopy was used to investigate the membranes surface and cross-section morphology. It was established that the inclusion of modifiers in the polymer matrix leads to the change of membrane structure. The influence of IL:HSM was also studied via sorption experiments and pervaporation of water‒lactic acid mixtures. Lactic acid is an essential compound in many industries, including food, pharmaceutical, chemical, while the recovering and purifying account for approximately 50% of its production cost. It was found that the membranes selectively remove water from the feed. Quantum mechanical calculations determine the favorable interactions between various membrane components and the liquid mixture. With IL:HSM addition, the separation factor and performance in lactic acid dehydration were improved compared with pure polymer membrane. The best performance was found for (HSM: IL)-PPO/UPM composite membrane, where the permeate flux and the separation factor of about 0.06 kg m−2 h−1 and 749, respectively, were obtained. The research results demonstrated that ionic liquids in combination with star macromolecules for membrane modification could be a promising approach for membrane design. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Polymeric Materials for Membrane Technology)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Effects of Amino Acid Side-Chain Length and Chemical Structure on Anionic Polyglutamic and Polyaspartic Acid Cellulose-Based Polyelectrolyte Brushes
Polymers 2021, 13(11), 1789; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13111789 - 28 May 2021
Abstract
We used atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to study polyelectrolyte brushes based on anionic α,L-glutamic acid and α,L-aspartic acid grafted on cellulose in the presence of divalent CaCl2 salt at different concentrations. The motivation is to search for ways to control properties [...] Read more.
We used atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to study polyelectrolyte brushes based on anionic α,L-glutamic acid and α,L-aspartic acid grafted on cellulose in the presence of divalent CaCl2 salt at different concentrations. The motivation is to search for ways to control properties such as sorption capacity and the structural response of the brush to multivalent salts. For this detailed understanding of the role of side-chain length, the chemical structure and their interplay are required. It was found that in the case of glutamic acid oligomers, the longer side chains facilitate attractive interactions with the cellulose surface, which forces the grafted chains to lie down on the surface. The additional methylene group in the side chain enables side-chain rotation, enhancing this effect. On the other hand, the shorter and more restricted side chains of aspartic acid oligomers prevent attractive interactions to a large degree and push the grafted chains away from the surface. The difference in side-chain length also leads to differences in other properties of the brush in divalent salt solutions. At a low grafting density, the longer side chains of glutamic acid allow the adsorbed cations to be spatially distributed inside the brush resulting in a charge inversion. With an increase in grafting density, the difference in the total charge of the aspartic and glutamine brushes disappears, but new structural features appear. The longer sides allow for ion bridging between the grafted chains and the cellulose surface without a significant change in main-chain conformation. This leads to the brush structure being less sensitive to changes in salt concentration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polyelectrolytes Are Superheroes)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Novel Self-Healing Metallocopolymers with Pendent 4-Phenyl-2,2′:6′,2″-terpyridine Ligand: Kinetic Studies and Mechanical Properties
Polymers 2021, 13(11), 1760; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13111760 - 27 May 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
We report here our successful attempt to obtain self-healing supramolecular hydrogels with new metal-containing monomers (MCMs) with pendent 4-phenyl-2,2′:6′,2″-terpyridine metal complexes as reversible moieties by free radical copolymerization of MCMs with vinyl monomers, such as acrylic acid and acrylamide. The resulting metal-polymer hydrogels [...] Read more.
We report here our successful attempt to obtain self-healing supramolecular hydrogels with new metal-containing monomers (MCMs) with pendent 4-phenyl-2,2′:6′,2″-terpyridine metal complexes as reversible moieties by free radical copolymerization of MCMs with vinyl monomers, such as acrylic acid and acrylamide. The resulting metal-polymer hydrogels demonstrate a developed system of hydrogen, coordination and electron-complementary π–π stacking interactions, which play a critical role in achieving self-healing. Kinetic data show that the addition of a third metal-containing comonomer to the system decreases the initial polymerization rate, which is due to the specific effect of the metal group located in close proximity of the active center on the growth of radicals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Polymer Applications)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Phospholipid-Conjugated PEG-b-PCL Copolymers as Precursors of Micellar Vehicles for Amphotericin B
Polymers 2021, 13(11), 1747; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13111747 - 27 May 2021
Abstract
Amphotericin B (AmB) is a widely used antifungal that presents a broad action spectrum and few reports on the development of resistance. However, AmB is highly toxic, causing renal failure in a considerable number of treated patients. Although when AmB is transported via [...] Read more.
Amphotericin B (AmB) is a widely used antifungal that presents a broad action spectrum and few reports on the development of resistance. However, AmB is highly toxic, causing renal failure in a considerable number of treated patients. Although when AmB is transported via polymer micelles (PMs) as delivery vehicles its nephrotoxicity has been successfully attenuated, this type of nanoparticle has limitations, such as low encapsulation capacity and poor stability in aqueous media. In this research, the effect of modifying polyethyleglicol-block-poly(ε-caprolactone) (PEG-b-PCL) with 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphorylethanolamine (DSPE) on the performance of PMs as vehicles for AmB was studied. PEG-b-PCL with two different lengths of a PCL segment was prepared via ring opening polymerisation and modified with DSPE at a post-synthesis stage through amidation. Upon modification with DSPE, a copolymer was self-assembled, thereby producing particles with hydrodynamic diameters below 100 nm and a lower critical micelle concentration than that of the raw copolymers. Likewise, in the presence of DSPE, the loading capacity of AmB increased because of the formed intermolecular interactions, such as hydrogen bonds, which also caused a lower aggregation of this drug. The assessment of in vitro toxicity against red blood cells indicated that the toxicity of AmB decreased upon encapsulation; however, its antifungal action against clinical yeasts was maintained and enhanced, as indicated by a decrease in its minimum inhibitory concentration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Polymeric Materials for Pharmaceutical Applications II)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Unfolding of Helical Poly(L-Glutamic Acid) in N,N-Dimethylformamide Probed by Pyrene Excimer Fluorescence (PEF)
Polymers 2021, 13(11), 1690; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13111690 - 22 May 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
The denaturation undergone by α–helical poly(L-glutamic acid) (PLGA) in N,N-dimethylformamide upon addition of guanidine hydrochloride (GdHCl) was characterized by comparing the fluorescence of a series of PLGA constructs randomly labeled with the dye pyrene [...] Read more.
The denaturation undergone by α–helical poly(L-glutamic acid) (PLGA) in N,N-dimethylformamide upon addition of guanidine hydrochloride (GdHCl) was characterized by comparing the fluorescence of a series of PLGA constructs randomly labeled with the dye pyrene (Py-PLGA) to that of a series of Py-PDLGA samples prepared from a racemic mixture of D,L-glutamic acid. The process of pyrene excimer formation (PEF) was taken advantage of to probe changes in the conformation of α–helical Py-PLGA. Fluorescence Blob Model (FBM) analysis of the fluorescence decays of the Py-PLGA and Py-PDLGA constructs yielded the average number (<Nblob>) of glutamic acids located inside a blob, which represented the volume probed by an excited pyrenyl label. <Nblob> remained constant for randomly coiled Py-PDLGA but decreased from ~20 to ~10 glutamic acids for the Py-PLGA samples as GdHCl was added to the solution. The decrease in <Nblob> reflected the decrease in the local density of PLGA as the α–helix unraveled in solution. The changes in <Nblob> with GdHCl concentration was used to determine the change in Gibbs energy required to denature the PLGA α–helix in DMF. The relationship between <Nblob> and the local density of macromolecules can now be applied to characterize the conformation of macromolecules in solution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Luminescent Polymers from Theory to Application)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
New Approach for Preparing In Vitro Bioactive Scaffold Consisted of Ag-Doped Hydroxyapatite + Polyvinyltrimethoxysilane
Polymers 2021, 13(11), 1695; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13111695 - 22 May 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Recently, researchers have focused on the biocompatibility and mechanical properties of highly porous structures of biomaterials products. Porous composites are a new category of bioengineering that possess excellent functional and structural properties. In this study, the physical and mechanical properties of prepared doped [...] Read more.
Recently, researchers have focused on the biocompatibility and mechanical properties of highly porous structures of biomaterials products. Porous composites are a new category of bioengineering that possess excellent functional and structural properties. In this study, the physical and mechanical properties of prepared doped silver (Ag)-hydroxyapatite (HA) by the mechanochemical and spark plasma sintering (SPS) methods were investigated. The influence of dopant on phase formation, structural properties, mechanical properties and morphological characteristics was investigated. Furthermore, in this case, as a new approach to produce a porous scaffold with an average size of >100 µm, the hair band was used as a mold. According to the Monshi–Scherrer method, the crystal size of scaffold was calculated 38 ± 2 nm and this value was in the good agreement with average value from transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis. In addition, the stress–strain compression test of scaffold was considered, and the maximum value of compressive strength was recorded ~15.71 MPa. Taking into account the XRD, TEM, Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR), scanning electron microscope (SEM) and energy dispersive X-Ray analysis (EDAX) analysis, the prepared scaffold was bioactive and the effects of doped Ag-HA and the use of polyvinyltrimethoxysilane (PVTMS) as an additive were desirable. The results showed that the effect of thermal treatment on composed of Ag and HA were impressive while no change in transformation was observed at 850 °C. In addition, PVTMS plays an important role as an additive for preventing the decomposition and creating open-microporous in the scaffold that these porosities can be helpful for increasing bioactivity. Full article
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Responsive Polyesters with Alkene and Carboxylic Acid Side-Groups for Tissue Engineering Applications
Polymers 2021, 13(10), 1636; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13101636 - 18 May 2021
Abstract
Main chain polyesters have been extensively used in the biomedical field. Despite their many advantages, including biocompatibility, biodegradability, and others, these materials are rather inert and lack specific functionalities which will endow them with additional biological and responsive properties. In this work, novel [...] Read more.
Main chain polyesters have been extensively used in the biomedical field. Despite their many advantages, including biocompatibility, biodegradability, and others, these materials are rather inert and lack specific functionalities which will endow them with additional biological and responsive properties. In this work, novel pH-responsive main chain polyesters have been prepared by a conventional condensation polymerization of a vinyl functionalized diol with a diacid chloride, followed by a photo-induced thiol-ene click reaction to attach functional carboxylic acid side-groups along the polymer chains. Two different mercaptocarboxylic acids were employed, allowing to vary the alkyl chain length of the polymer pendant groups. Moreover, the degree of modification, and as a result, the carboxylic acid content of the polymers, was easily tuned by varying the irradiation time during the click reaction. Both these parameters, were shown to strongly influence the responsive behavior of the polyesters, which presented adjustable pKα values and water solubilities. Finally, the difunctional polyesters bearing the alkene and carboxylic acid functionalities enabled the preparation of cross-linked polyester films by chemically linking the pendant vinyl bonds on the polymer side groups. The biocompatibility of the cross-linked polymers films was assessed in L929 fibroblast cultures and showed that the cell viability, proliferation, and attachment were greatly promoted on the polyester surface, bearing the shorter alkyl chain length side groups and the higher fraction of carboxylic acid functionalities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue State-of-the-Art Polymer Science and Technology in Greece)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Hardly Flammable Polyurethane Foams with 1,3-Pyrimidine Ring and Boron Atoms
Polymers 2021, 13(10), 1603; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13101603 - 16 May 2021
Abstract
This work presents the results of research related to the determination of application possibilities of new oligoetherols with 1,3-pyrimidine rings and boron atoms in rigid polyurethane foam production. Oligoetherols were obtained from 1,3-bis(2-hydroxyethyl)uracil, boric acid, and ethylene carbonate. Their structure was determined by [...] Read more.
This work presents the results of research related to the determination of application possibilities of new oligoetherols with 1,3-pyrimidine rings and boron atoms in rigid polyurethane foam production. Oligoetherols were obtained from 1,3-bis(2-hydroxyethyl)uracil, boric acid, and ethylene carbonate. Their structure was determined by instrumental methods (IR, 1H-NMR and MALDI-ToF spectra) and the physicochemical and thermal properties were examined. Obtained oligoetherols were used for synthesis of polyurethane foams. Some properties of the foams, such as apparent density, water uptake, dimensions stability, thermal stability, compression strength, thermal conductivity, oxygen index, and horizontal burning were investigated. The introduction of boron atoms into the foam structure reduced their flammability, but unfortunately it had a negative effect on the water absorption of the obtained materials—the water absorption was higher compared to the boron-free foams. The obtained foams showed good thermal stability compared to classic, rigid polyurethane foams. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polyurethane Foams: Current Advances and Future Perspectives)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Composite Poly(vinyl alcohol)-Based Nanofibers Embedding Differently-Shaped Gold Nanoparticles: Preparation and Characterization
Polymers 2021, 13(10), 1604; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13101604 - 16 May 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Poly(vinyl alcohol) nanofibrous mats containing ad hoc synthesized gold nanostructures were prepared via a single-step electrospinning procedure and investigated as a novel composite platform with several potential applications. Specifically, the effect of differently shaped and sized gold nanostructures on the resulting mat physical-chemical [...] Read more.
Poly(vinyl alcohol) nanofibrous mats containing ad hoc synthesized gold nanostructures were prepared via a single-step electrospinning procedure and investigated as a novel composite platform with several potential applications. Specifically, the effect of differently shaped and sized gold nanostructures on the resulting mat physical-chemical properties was investigated. In detail, nearly spherical nanoparticles and nanorods were first synthesized through a chemical reduction of gold precursors in water by using (hexadecyl)trimethylammonium bromide as the stabilizing agent. These nanostructures were then dispersed in poly(vinyl alcohol) aqueous solutions to prepare nanofibrous mats, which were then stabilized via a humble thermal treatment able to enhance their thermal stability and water resistance. Remarkably, the nanostructure type was proven to influence the mesh morphology, with the small spherical nanoparticles and the large nanorods leading to thinner well defined or bigger defect-rich nanofibers, respectively. Finally, the good mechanical properties shown by the prepared composite mats suggest their ease of handleability thereby opening new perspective applications. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Hard Coating Materials Based on Photo-Reactive Silsesquioxane for Flexible Application: Improvement of Flexible and Hardness Properties by High Molecular Weight
Polymers 2021, 13(10), 1564; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13101564 - 13 May 2021
Abstract
EPOSS of polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes (POSS) mixture structure and LPSQ of ladder-like polysilsesquioxane (LPSQ) structure were synthesized via sol–gel reaction. EPSQ had a high molecular weight due to polycondensation by potassium carbonate. The EPSQ film showed uniform surface morphology due to regular double-stranded [...] Read more.
EPOSS of polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes (POSS) mixture structure and LPSQ of ladder-like polysilsesquioxane (LPSQ) structure were synthesized via sol–gel reaction. EPSQ had a high molecular weight due to polycondensation by potassium carbonate. The EPSQ film showed uniform surface morphology due to regular double-stranded structure. In contrast, the EPOSS-coated film showed nonuniform surface morphology due to strong aggregation. Due to the aggregation, the EPOSS film had shorter d-spacing (d1) than the EPSQ film in XRD analysis. In pencil hardness and nanoindentation analysis, EPSQ film showed higher hardness than the EPOSS film due to regular double-stranded structure. In addition, in the in-folding (r = 0.5 mm) and out-folding (r = 5 mm) tests, the EPSQ film did not crack unlike the EPOSS coated film. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Silicon-Based Polymers and Materials)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Insight into the Surface Properties of Wood Fiber-Polymer Composites
Polymers 2021, 13(10), 1535; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13101535 - 11 May 2021
Abstract
The surface properties of wood fiber (WF) filled polymer composites depend on the filler loading and are closely related to the distribution and orientation in the polymer matrix. In this study, wood fibers (WF) were incorporated into thermoplastic composites based on non-recycled polypropylene [...] Read more.
The surface properties of wood fiber (WF) filled polymer composites depend on the filler loading and are closely related to the distribution and orientation in the polymer matrix. In this study, wood fibers (WF) were incorporated into thermoplastic composites based on non-recycled polypropylene (PP) and recycled (R-PP) composites by melt compounding and injection moulding. ATR-FTIR (attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) measurements clearly showed the propagation of WF functional groups at the surface layer of WF-PP/WF-R-PP composites preferentially with WF loading up to 30%. Optical microscopy and nanoindentation method confirmed the alignment of thinner skin layer of WF-PP/WF-R-PP composites with increasing WF addition. The thickness of the skin layer was mainly influenced by the WF loading. The effect of the addition of WF on modulus and hardness, at least at 30 and 40 wt.%, varies for PP and R-PP matrix. On the other hand, surface zeta potential measurements show increased hydrophilicity with increasing amounts of WF. Moreover, WF in PP/R-PP matrix is also responsible for the antioxidant properties of these composites as measured by DPPH (2,2′-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) assay. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodegradable and Natural Polymers)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Mechanical Properties, Wettability and Thermal Degradation of HDPE/Birch Fiber Composite
Polymers 2021, 13(9), 1459; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13091459 - 30 Apr 2021
Abstract
Wood–plastic composites have emerged and represent an alternative to conventional composites reinforced with synthetic carbon fiber or glass fiber–polymer. A wide variety of wood fibers are used in WPCs including birch fiber. Birch is a common hardwood tree that grows in cool areas [...] Read more.
Wood–plastic composites have emerged and represent an alternative to conventional composites reinforced with synthetic carbon fiber or glass fiber–polymer. A wide variety of wood fibers are used in WPCs including birch fiber. Birch is a common hardwood tree that grows in cool areas such as the province of Quebec, Canada. The effect of the filler proportion on the mechanical properties, wettability, and thermal degradation of high-density polyethylene/birch fiber composite was studied. High-density polyethylene, birch fiber and maleic anhydride polyethylene as coupling agent were mixed and pressed to obtain test specimens. Tensile and flexural tests, scanning electron microscopy, dynamic mechanical analysis, differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetry analysis and surface energy measurement were carried out. The tensile elastic modulus increased by 210% as the fiber content reached 50% by weight while the flexural modulus increased by 236%. The water droplet contact angle always exceeded 90°, meaning that the material remained hydrophobic. The thermal decomposition mass loss increased proportional with the percentage of fiber, which degraded at a lower temperature than the HDPE did. Both the storage modulus and the loss modulus increased with the proportion of fiber. Based on differential scanning calorimetry, neither the fiber proportion nor the coupling agent proportion affected the material melting temperature. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mechanical Properties and Behavior of Polymer-Based Materials)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
The Study of pH Effects on Phase Transition of Multi-Stimuli Responsive P(NiPAAm-co-AAc) Hydrogel Using 2D-COS
Polymers 2021, 13(9), 1447; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13091447 - 29 Apr 2021
Abstract
The temperature and mechanism of phase transition of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-acrylic acid) [P(NiPAAm-co-AAc)], which is one of the multi-stimuli responsive polymers, were investigated at various pHs using infrared (IR) spectroscopy, two-dimensional (2D) gradient mapping, and two-dimensional correlation spectroscopy (2D-COS). [...] Read more.
The temperature and mechanism of phase transition of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-acrylic acid) [P(NiPAAm-co-AAc)], which is one of the multi-stimuli responsive polymers, were investigated at various pHs using infrared (IR) spectroscopy, two-dimensional (2D) gradient mapping, and two-dimensional correlation spectroscopy (2D-COS). The determined phase transition temperature of P(NiPAAm-co-AAc) at pH 4, 3, and 2 based on 2D gradient mapping and principal component analysis (PCA) showed that it decreases with decreasing pH, because COOH group in AAc changes with variation of pH. The results of 2D-COS analysis indicated that the phase transition mechanism of P(NiPAAm-co-AAc) hydrogel at pH4 is different from that at pH2 due to the effect of COOH group of AAc. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue High-Functional Polymeric Materials)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Novel Bending Test Method for Polymer Railway Sleeper Materials
Polymers 2021, 13(9), 1359; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13091359 - 21 Apr 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Alternative sleeper technologies have been developed to address the significant need for the replacement of deteriorating timber railway sleepers. The review of the literature indicates that the railway sleepers might fail while in service, despite passing the evaluation tests of the current composite [...] Read more.
Alternative sleeper technologies have been developed to address the significant need for the replacement of deteriorating timber railway sleepers. The review of the literature indicates that the railway sleepers might fail while in service, despite passing the evaluation tests of the current composite sleeper standards which indicated that these tests do not represent in situ sleeper on ballast. In this research, a new five-point bending test is developed to evaluate the flexural behaviour of timber replacement sleeper technologies supported by ballast. Due to the simplicity, acceptance level of evaluation accuracy and the lack of in-service behaviour of alternative sleepers, this new testing method is justified with the bending behaviour according to the Beam on Elastic Foundation theory. Three timber replacement sleeper technologies—plastic, synthetic composites and low-profile prestressed concrete sleepers in addition to timber sleepers—were tested under service loading condition to evaluate the suitability of the new test method. To address the differences in the bending of the sleepers due to their different modulus of elasticities, the most appropriate material for the middle support was also determined. Analytical equations of the bending moments with and without middle support settlement were also developed. The results showed that the five-point static bending test could induce the positive and negative bending moments experienced by railway sleepers under a train wheel load. It was also found that with the proposed testing spans, steel-EPDM rubber is the most suitable configuration for low bending modulus sleepers such as plastic, steel-neoprene for medium modulus polymer sleepers and steel-steel for very high modulus sleepers such as concrete. Finally, the proposed bending moment equations can precisely predict the flexural behaviour of alternative sleepers under the five-point bending test. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Structural Reinforced Polymer Composites)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Rapid and Local Self-Healing Ability of Polyurethane Nanocomposites Using Photothermal Polydopamine-Coated Graphene Oxide Triggered by Near-Infrared Laser
Polymers 2021, 13(8), 1274; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13081274 - 14 Apr 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
In this study, we report the self-healing ability of polyurethane (PU) nanocomposites based on the photothermal effect of polydopamine-coated graphene oxide (PDA–rGO). Polydopamine (PDA) was coated on the graphene oxide (GO) surface, while simultaneously reducing GO by the oxidation of dopamine hydrochloride in [...] Read more.
In this study, we report the self-healing ability of polyurethane (PU) nanocomposites based on the photothermal effect of polydopamine-coated graphene oxide (PDA–rGO). Polydopamine (PDA) was coated on the graphene oxide (GO) surface, while simultaneously reducing GO by the oxidation of dopamine hydrochloride in an alkaline aqueous solution. The PDA–rGO was characterized by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis, and scanning electron microscopy–energy-dispersive X-ray analysis. PDA–rGO/PU nanocomposites with nanofiller contents of 0.1, 0.5 and 1 wt% were prepared by ex situ mixing method. The photothermal effect of the PDA–rGO in the PU matrix was investigated at 0.1 W/cm2 using an 808 nm near-infrared (NIR) laser. The photothermal properties of the PDA–rGO/PU nanocomposites were superior to those of the GO/PU nanocomposites, owing to an increase in the local surface plasmon resonance effect by coating with PDA. Subsequently, the self-healing efficiency was confirmed by recovering the tensile stress of the damaged nanocomposites using the thermal energy generated by the NIR laser. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Self-Healing of Structural Composite Materials)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
Is Micro X-ray Computer Tomography a Suitable Non-Destructive Method for the Characterisation of Dental Materials?
Polymers 2021, 13(8), 1271; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13081271 - 14 Apr 2021
Abstract
The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of X-rays used in micro X-ray computer tomography (µXCT) on the mechanical performance and microstructure of a variety of dental materials. Standardised bending beams (2 × 2 × 25 mm3) were [...] Read more.
The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of X-rays used in micro X-ray computer tomography (µXCT) on the mechanical performance and microstructure of a variety of dental materials. Standardised bending beams (2 × 2 × 25 mm3) were forwarded to irradiation with an industrial tomograph. Using three-dimensional datasets, the porosity of the materials was quantified and flexural strength was investigated prior to and after irradiation. The thermal properties of irradiated and unirradiated materials were analysed and compared by means of differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). Single µXCT measurements led to a significant decrease in flexural strength of polycarbonate with acrylnitril-butadien-styrol (PC-ABS). No significant influence in flexural strength was identified for resin-based composites (RBCs), poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), and zinc phosphate cement (HAR) after a single irradiation by measurement. However, DSC results suggest that changes in the microstructure of PMMA are possible with increasing radiation doses (multiple measurements, longer measurements, higher output power from the X-ray tube). In summary, it must be assumed that X-ray radiation during µXCT measurement at high doses can lead to changes in the structure and properties of certain polymers. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Article
A Novel and Highly Effective Natural Vibration Modal Analysis to Predict Nominal Strength of Open Hole Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer Composites Structure
Polymers 2021, 13(8), 1251; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13081251 - 12 Apr 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) composite laminates are considered the key material in many industries such as the infrastructure industries and the aerospace sector, and in building structures due to their superior specific strength and lightweight properties. The prediction of specimens’ nominal strength [...] Read more.
Glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) composite laminates are considered the key material in many industries such as the infrastructure industries and the aerospace sector, and in building structures due to their superior specific strength and lightweight properties. The prediction of specimens’ nominal strength with open holes is still an attractive and questionable field of study. The specimen size effect is referred to its strength degradation due to the presence of holes when specimen geometry gets scaled. The non-destructive test used to measure the nominal strength of such material is a great tool for fast selection purposes, but not secure enough for several purposes. Furthermore, the destructive tests which are more expensive and time-consuming should be avoided in such structures. The present work aims to predict the nominal strength of open-hole GFRP’s composite using modal analysis of their natural frequency as non-destructive tests. At this end, the natural frequency, which is measured using modal analysis procedures, is combined with both linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) and the theory of elasticity to predict the nominal strength of open-hole composite laminates. This advanced model employs two parameters of surface release energy resulting from a simple tension test and Young’s modulus based on vibration modal analysis. It is well established that these types of materials are also subjected to a size effect in dynamic response. Inversely to the known static loading size effect, the size effect in dynamic response increases with specimen size. The novel model gives excellent and acceptable results when compared with experimental and finite element ones. Size effects curves of a nominal strength of these laminates have a very close relative value with those obtained from finite element and analytical modeling. Moreover, the received design tables and graphs would be highly applicable when selecting suitable materials for similar industrial applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durability of Fiber-Reinforced-Polymer (FRP) Composites)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Article
Polymer Adsorbents vs. Functionalized Oxides and Carbons: Particulate Morphology and Textural and SurfaceCharacteristics
Polymers 2021, 13(8), 1249; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/polym13081249 - 12 Apr 2021
Cited by 1
Abstract
Various methods for morphological, textural, and structural characterization of polymeric, carbon, and oxide adsorbents have been developed and well described. However, there are ways to improve the quantitative information extraction from experimental data for describing complex sorbents and polymer fillers. This could be [...] Read more.
Various methods for morphological, textural, and structural characterization of polymeric, carbon, and oxide adsorbents have been developed and well described. However, there are ways to improve the quantitative information extraction from experimental data for describing complex sorbents and polymer fillers. This could be based not only on probe adsorption and electron microscopies (TEM, SEM) but also on small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), cryoporometry, relaxometry, thermoporometry, quasi-elastic light scattering, Raman and infrared spectroscopies, and other methods. To effectively extract information on complex materials, it is important to use appropriate methods to treat the data with adequate physicomathematical models that accurately describe the dependences of these data on pressure, concentration, temperature, and other parameters, and effective computational programs. It is shown that maximum accurate characterization of complex materials is possible if several complemented methods are used in parallel, e.g., adsorption and SAXS with self-consistent regularization procedures (giving pore size (PSD), pore wall thickness (PWTD) or chord length (CLD), and particle size (PaSD) distribution functions, the specific surface area of open and closed pores, etc.), TEM/SEM images with quantitative treatments (giving the PaSD, PSD, and PWTD functions), as well as cryo- and thermoporometry, relaxometry, X-ray diffraction, infrared and Raman spectroscopies (giving information on the behavior of the materials under different conditions). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Functional Adsorbents)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract