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International Journal of Polymer Science
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 7431419, 8 pages
Research Article

Synthesis of Disentangled Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene: Influence of Reaction Medium on Material Properties

Department of Materials, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK

Correspondence should be addressed to Sara Ronca

Received 12 January 2017; Accepted 6 April 2017; Published 3 May 2017

Academic Editor: Bernabé L. Rivas

Copyright © 2017 Giuseppe Forte and Sara Ronca. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The polymerization of ethylene to Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) in certain reaction conditions allows synthesis of nascent powders with a considerably lower amount of entanglements: the material obtained is of great interest from both academic and industrial viewpoints. From an academic point of view, it is interesting to follow the evolution of the metastable melt state with the progressive entanglements formation. Industrially, it is valuable to have a solvent-free processing route for the production of high modulus, high strength tapes. Since the polymer synthesis is performed in the presence of a solvent, it is interesting to investigate the influence that the reaction medium can have on the catalyst activity, resultant molecular characteristics, and polymer morphology at the macroscopic as wells as microscopic level. In this paper, we present the effect that two typical polymerization solvents, toluene and heptane, and mixtures of them, have on the catalytic performance and on the polymer properties. The observations are that an unexpected increase of catalyst activity, accompanied by a significant improvement in mechanical properties, is found when using a carefully chosen mixture of solvents. A tentative explanation is given on the basis of the presented results.