DOI: 10.3390/polym15244668 ISSN: 2073-4360

Aging of Plasma-Activated Polyethylene and Hydrophobic Recovery of Polyethylene Polymers

Miran Mozetič
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • General Chemistry

Available literature on the aging of plasma-activated polyethylene due to hydrophobic recovery has been reviewed and critically assessed. A common method for the evaluation of hydrophobic recovery is the determination of the static water contact angle, while the surface free energy does not reveal significant correlations. Surface-sensitive methods for the characterization of chemical composition and structure have limited applicability in studying the aging phenomenon. Aging is driven by thermodynamics, so it is observed even upon storage in a vacuum, and hydrophobic recovery increases with increasing temperature. Storage of plasma-activated polyethylene in the air at ambient conditions follows almost logarithmic behavior during the period studied by most authors; i.e., up to one month. The influence of the storage medium is somehow controversial because some authors reported aging suppression by storing in polar liquids, but others reported the loss of hydrophilicity even after a brief immersion into distilled water. Methods for suppressing aging by hydrophobic recovery include plasma treatment at elevated temperature followed by brief treatment at room temperature and application of energetic ions and photons in the vacuum ultraviolet range. Storing at low temperatures is a trivial alternative, but not very practical. The aging of plasma-activated polyethylene suppresses the adhesion of many coatings, but the correlation between the surface free energy and the adhesion force has yet to be addressed adequately.

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