• Electro-activated surface micropattern tuning for microinjection molded electrically conductive shape memory polyurethane composites

      Fei, G.; Tuinea-Bobe, Cristina-Luminita; Li, Dongxu; Li, G.; Whiteside, Benjamin R.; Coates, Philip D.; Xia, H. (2013)
      Shape memory polymers with surface micropatterns have seen rising demand for high value applications such as adjustable adherence surfaces, dynamic micro-geometries for cell culture studies and switchable information carriers. Recently, microinjection molding has emerged as an efficient way to manufacture devices which contain surface micro-features using a wide range of polymers with high accuracy. In this study, shape memory polyurethane-carbon nanotube composites were prepared by twin-screw melt extrusion and subsequently processed using microinjection molding to obtain components with surface micropatterns. Then an electro-activated surface micropattern tuning system was developed which could recover the original micropatterned surface of the components after a thermal deformation by applying a current which heats the component using resistive heating. In order to optimize the technique, three key areas were investigated in this work: conductivity of the microinjection molded microparts, the retention of shape memory micropatterns on the surface of microparts during annealing treatment, and the macroscopic area shrinkage of microparts after thermal treatment. It has been found that the electrical conductivity of microinjection molded parts is relatively low due to the high shear rates prevalent in the process. An annealing treatment improves the electrical conductivity by several orders of magnitude, but can be detrimental to the dimensional stability of the micropatterns, which depends significantly on the micro-injection molding parameters, especially the mold temperature. Increasing the mold temperature, melt temperature, injection speed and injection pressure result in better retention of the micropattern and improved dimension stability during annealing treatment. This work demonstrates the potential of electro-activated surface micropattern control for microinjection molded electrically conductive shape memory polymer composites, which could be a promising technology for a range of application areas including electro-adjustable adherence, information storage, and anti-counterfeiting technology.
    • Micro-contact reconstruction of adjacent carbon nanotubes in polymer matrix through annealing-Induced relaxation of interfacial residual stress and strain

      Li, Dongxu; Fei, G.; Xia, H.; Spencer, Paul E.; Coates, Philip D. (2015-09-05)
      Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)/multi-walled carbon nanotubes (CNT) nanocomposites were prepared by twin-screw extrusion and micro injection molding. The electrical conductivity of micro injection molded polymer nanocomposites exhibits a low value and uneven distribution in the micromolded samples. Real-time tracing of electrical conductivity was conducted to investigate the post thermal treatment on the electrical conductivity of microinjection molded composites. The results show that postmolding thermal treatment leads to a significant increase in the electrical conductivity by over three orders of magnitude for 5 wt % CNT-filled TPU composites. In-situ Transmission electron microscopy confirms the conductive CNT network does not change at the micron/sub-micron scale during thermal treatment. TEM image analysis by a statistical method was used to determine the spatial distribution of CNT in the sample and showed that the average distance between adjacent CNT reduced slightly at the nanometer scale after postmolding thermal treatment. A new conductive mechanism is proposed to explain the enhancement of electrical conductivity after thermal treatment, i.e. micro-contact reconstruction of adjacent CNT in the polymer matrix through annealing-induced relaxation of interfacial residual stress and strain. Raman spectra and small angle X-ray scattering curve of annealed samples provide supporting evidence for the proposed new conductive mechanism. The electron tunneling model was used to understand the effect of inter-particle distance on the conductivity of polymer composites.
    • Microinjection moulded polyetheretherketone biomaterials as spinal implants: physico-chemical and mechanical characterisation

      Tuinea-Bobe, Cristina-Luminita; Xia, H.; Ryabenkova, Yulia; Sweeney, John; Coates, Philip D.; Fei, G. (2019-03)
      Polyetheretherketone (or PEEK) is a thermoplastic polymer known for its high plasticity and toughness and has been widely employed as a material for a variety of load-bearing medical devices ranging from trauma implants to interspinal spacers and femoral stems. While being inherently chemically inert and therefore biocompatible and having very short lived post-radiation free radicals, PEEK presents different mechanical properties depending on its degree of crystallinity. It can be processed via extrusion, injection or compression moulding. However, these techniques do not allow high precision control over the fine morphological structure that strongly influences mechanical properties. Microinjection moulding, in contrast, makes it possible to produce fine details of medical implants with high precision and accuracy. Another advantage of this method is the controlled production of the material with heterogeneous structure due to variations in crystallinity. Having stiffness in the middle of the sample different from that at the edges enables a structure that mimics the bone/cartilage parts of an implant. This paper reports on the manufacturing of PEEK components by microinjection moulding, and their characterisation by physico-chemical (XRD, SAXS, TEM, FTIR, POM) and mechanical (tensile testing) means, in order to assess the suitability of use for biomedical application, such as spinal implants. We discuss the influence of such parameters as mould temperatures, injection speeds and hold pressures on the crystallinity and mechanical properties of the material.