Polypropylene–CaCO3 composites were prepared on a twin screw extruder with a particle content of 0–32 vol%. The influence of particle size (0.07–1.9 μm) and surface treatment of the particles (with and without stearic acid) on the toughening properties were studied. The matrix molecular weight of the polypropylene was also varied (MFI 0.3–24 dg/min). The experiments included tensile tests, notched Izod impact tests, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), scanning electron microscopy and rheology experiments. The modulus of the composites increased, while the yield stress was lowered with filler content. This lowering of yield stress was connected to the debonding of the particles from the polypropylene matrix. From DSC experiments it was shown that the particle content had no influence on the melting temperature or crystallinity of the PP phase, also particle size showed no effect on the thermal properties. The impact resistance showed large improvement with particle content. The brittle-to-ductile transition was lowered from 90 to 40 °C with the addition of CaCO3 particles. Notched Izod fracture energy was increased from 2 up to 40–50 kJ/m2. The stearic acid coating on the particle surface showed a large positive effect on the impact strength. This was mainly due to the improved dispersion of the CaCO3 particles. Aggregates of particles clearly had a detrimental effect on the impact behaviour of the composites. The smaller particle sizes (<0.7 μm) showed coarse morphologies and this lowered the toughening efficiency. The molecular weight of the polypropylene matrix had a profound effect on the toughening properties. A higher molecular mass shifted the brittle-to-ductile transition towards lower temperatures. At the higher filler loads (>20 vol%), however, still problems seem to occur with dispersion, lowering the toughening efficiency. Of all particle types used in this study the stearic acid treated particles of 0.7 μm were found to give the best combination of properties. From the study of the micro-toughening mechanism it was shown that at low strain the particles remain attached to the matrix polymer. At higher strain the particles debond and this leads to a change in stress state at the particle size level. This prevents crazing of the matrix polymer and allows extensive plastic deformation, resulting in large quantities of fracture energy.
Zuiderduin, W. C. J., Westzaan, C., Huetink, H., & Gaymans, R. J. (2003). Toughening of polypropylene with calcium carbonate particles. Polymer, 44(1), 261-275. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0032-3861(02)00769-3