Macromolecules, 2013, vol 46, 17, pp. 6981-6990
The structural evolution of micromolded poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) and its miscible blends with noncrystallizable poly(vinyl methyl ether) (PVME) at the nanoscale was investigated as a function of deformation ratio and blend composition using in situ synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and scanning SAXS techniques. It was found that the deformation mechanism of the oriented samples shows a general scheme for the process of tensile deformation: crystal block slips within the lamellae occur at small deformations followed by a stress-induced fragmentation and recrystallization process along the drawing direction at a critical strain where the average thickness of the crystalline lamellae remains essentially constant during stretching. The value of the critical strain depends on the amount of the amorphous component incorporated in the blends, which could be traced back to the lower modulus of the entangled amorphous phase and, therefore, the reduced network stress acting on the crystallites upon addition of PVME. When stretching beyond the critical strain the slippage of the fibrils (stacks of newly formed lamellae) past each other takes place resulting in a relaxation of stretched interlamellar amorphous chains. Because of deformation-induced introduction of the amorphous PVME into the interfibrillar regions in the highly oriented blends, the interactions between fibrils becomes stronger upon further deformation and thus impeding sliding of the fibrils to some extent leading finally to less contraction of the interlamellar amorphous layers compared to the pure PCL.