Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
METHOD FOR THE PREPARATION OF FLUOROPOLYMER POWDERED MATERIALS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/010739
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method for the preparation of a modified fluoropolymer powdered material is disclosed. A suspension of solid fluoropolymer particles together with SiCparticles in an aqueous carrier, is frozen and the frozen carrier is then removed by sublimation at sub-atmospheric pressure to produce a dry powder of modified fluoropolymer particles.

Inventors:
COATES MICHAEL (US)
WHITLOW ROBERT IAIN (GB)
GINES JOEL (GB)
WRIGHT JULIE K (GB)
MELVILLE ANDREW J (GB)
HARVEY LEONARD W (US)
Application Number:
GB2008/002414
Publication Date:
January 22, 2009
Filing Date:
July 15, 2008
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
WHITFORD PLASTICS LTD (GB)
COATES MICHAEL (US)
WHITLOW ROBERT IAIN (GB)
GINES JOEL (GB)
WRIGHT JULIE K (GB)
MELVILLE ANDREW J (GB)
HARVEY LEONARD W (US)
International Classes:
C08J3/12; F26B5/06
Domestic Patent References:
WO2007080426A12007-07-19
Foreign References:
US3692759A1972-09-19
US3803108A1974-04-09
EP1746130A12007-01-24
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
REES, David, Christopher (20 Red Lion Street, London WC1R 4PJ, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:

Claims

1. A method for the preparation of a modified fluoropolymer material in powder form which comprises the steps of: forming a suspension of solid particles of the fluoropolymer together with particles of silicon carbide (SiC) as a modifier in an aqueous liquid carrier; freezing the aqueous suspension; and subsequently subjecting the frozen aqueous suspension to sublimation, thereby producing dry particles of the fluoropolymer, modified by the presence of the SiC modifier, in powder form.

2. A method as claimed in Claim 1, in which the fluoropolymer is perfluoromethyl vinyl ether (MFA).

3. A method as claimed in Claim 1 or Claim 2, in which the particle size of the fluoropolymer is in the range 30 to 350nm.

4. A method as claimed in any of Claims 1 to 3, in which the SiC modifier has a particle size in the range up to 50μm.

5. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the SiC is present as up to 2 wt% of the MFA/SiC mixture, expressed on a dry weight basis.

6. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, in which sublimation is achieved by means of a sub-atmospheric pressure.

7. A method as claimed in Claim 6, in which the reduced pressure is in the range of 0.01 to 0.99atm.

8. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, in which sublimation is carried out at a temperature below the glass transition temperature of the fluoropolymer.

9. A method as claimed in Claim 8, in which sublimation is carried out at ambient temperature.

10. A method as claimed in Claim 8, in which sublimation is carried out at a temperature between ambient temperature and the glass transition temperature of the fluoropolymer.

1 1. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the suspension of the solid particles in the aqueous carrier is frozen at a temperature in the range -60°C to -20 0 C.

12. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the suspension of the solid particles in the aqueous carrier is frozen in trays.

13. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the modified fluoropolymer particles are subjected to milling and/or irradiation.

14. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the fluoropolymer is fibrillatable and/or non-pumpable.

Description:

Method for the Preparation of Fluoropolymer Powdered Materials

The present invention relates to a method for the preparation of Fluoropolymer powdered materials.

Fluoropolymers are long-chain polymers comprising mainly ethylenic linear repeating units in which some or all of the hydrogen atoms are replaced with fluorine. Examples include Poly (tetrafluoroethylene), Perfluoromethyl vinyl ether (MFA), Fluoro ethylene propylene (FEP), Per Fluoro Alkoxy (PFA), Poly(chlorotrifluoroethylene) and Poly(vinylfluoride). They are amongst the most chemically inert of all polymers and are characterised by an unusual resistance to acids, bases and solvents. They have unusually low frictional properties and have the ability to withstand extremes of temperature. Accordingly, fluoropolymers are utilised in a wide variety of applications in which resistance to extreme environments is necessary. Current applications include the formation of tubing and packing materials within chemical plants, semiconductor equipment, automotive parts and structural cladding.

There are several applications which require the powdered form of the fluoropolymer. The fluoropolymer may be applied to a surface by electrostatic spraying of the powder. Uses would include the coating of household cookware to increase non-stick properties and abrasion resistance, and the coating of automotive parts to increase resistance to environmental weathering.

At present, two methods are generally used to produce the powdered form of a fluoropolymer. Spray drying methods comprise the pumping of an aqueous dispersion of the fluoropolymer feed into an atomising system, generally located at the top of a drying chamber. The liquid is atomised into a stream of heated gas to evaporate the water and produce a dry powder. This method has several limitations. The requirement that the aqueous dispersion is pumped into the atomising system limits the use of this process to pumpable materials, and the spray dried agglomerates are tightly bound to each other and resist subsequent

disagglomeration. In addition, only non-fibrillatable materials can be processed, as atomisation may result in the fibrillation of the fluoropolymer, resulting in an intractable 'marshmallow' material which is difficult to handle.

An alternative method involves the coagulation of the particles within an aqueous dispersion. Coagulation is facilitated by the use of high mechanical shear, the addition of acids or the addition of gelling agents and subsequent treatment with a water immiscible organic liquid. The coagulated particles can be separated from the residual liquid by filtration and subsequently dried, typically using tray, belt or flash dryers. The coagulated granules are usually case hardened for ease of handling. However, the formation of agglomerates results in a particle size that is too large for use in conventional powder spray application techniques. Milling, traditionally used to adjust the particle size distribution, can cause fibrillation of the particles, to produce an intractable material which is difficult to handle. The case hardened material also produces a tight agglomerate which resists subsequent disagglomeration.

In both these methods, it maybe difficult to incorporate a modifier that will improve the wear characteristics of the fluoropolymer.

It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a method for the preparation of a modified fluoropolymer powdered material with improved wear characteristics.

According to the present invention there is provided a method for the preparation of a modified fluoropolymer material in powder form which comprises the steps of: forming a suspension of solid particles of the fluoropolymer together with particles of silicon carbide (SiC) as a modifier in an aqueous liquid carrier; freezing the aqueous suspension; and subsequently subjecting the frozen aqueous suspension to sublimation, thereby producing dry particles of the fluoropolymer, modified by the presence of the SiC modifier, in powder form.

The addition of the SiC modifier to the fluoropolmer in the aqueous carrier allows the modifier particles to disperse efficiently between the fluoropolymer particles thus imparting improved wear characteristics to the finished powder material once applied and cured as film. Post milling or irradiation of the freeze-dried modified fluoropolymer material can also enhance its suitability as a powder coating material.

Preferably the particle size of the fluoropolymer is in the range 30 to 350nm, preferably 200 to 250nm e.g. about 230nm. Preferably, the SiC modifier has a particle size in the range 40nm to50nm, preferably lμm to 20μm e.g. about lOμm and is present as up to 2 wt%, preferably 0.1 to 1 wt% e.g. 0.5 wt% of the MFA/SiC mixture, expressed on a dry weight basis.

The method is particularly suitable for the processing of Perfluoromethyl vinyl ether (MFA), Fluoro ethylene propylene (FEP) and Per Fluoro Alkoxy (PFA).

Preferably, the modified fluoropolymer powdered material has a particle size that is sufficiently small to allow application by conventional powder spray application techniques. The agglomerates (with a primary particle size of about 0.2μm) produced may have an average diameter of from 1 to lOOμm, more preferably from 20 to 30μm.

Preferably, the suspension of the solid fluoropolymer particles in the liquid carrier is frozen in a freezer at a temperature below O 0 C. More preferably, the suspension is frozen at a temperature in the range -6O 0 C to -2O 0 C. Typically, freezing might be completed in 6 hrs to 24 hrs.

Preferably, the suspension of the solid fluoropolymer particles in the liquid carrier is poured, scooped or otherwise transferred into a tray prior to freezing. Preferably, the tray containing the suspension of the solid fluoropolymer particles is then placed into the freezer and frozen within the tray.

Preferably, the aqueous carrier is water with or without surfactant and with or without bridging solvents (organic solvent used to aid the dispersion/solvating of additional resins). If bridging solvents are used, they should be at concentrations low enough and have high enough melting points so that freezing is not inhibited.

Preferably, the sublimation is carried out using sub-atmospheric pressure or a vacuum. The use of a reduced pressure causes sublimation of the carrier from a frozen state directly to a gaseous state, avoiding the solid to liquid and liquid to gas transition. Preferably, the reduced pressure is created by means of a vacuum pump. Preferably, the reduced pressure is in the range O.Olatm to 0.99atm, more preferably 0.04atm to 0.08atm. Typically, sublimation might be completed in 12 hrs to 48 hrs.

The method is preferably carried out at a temperature which is in practice below the glass transition temperature of the fluoropolymer. The glass transition temperature, T g , of a polymer is the temperature at which it changes from a glassy form to a rubbery form. The measured value of T g will depend on the molecular weight of the polymer, its thermal history and age, and on the rate of heating and cooling. Typical values are MFA about 75°C, PFA about 75 0 C, FEP about -208 0 C, PVDF about -45 0 C.

The temperature is controlled to assist the sublimation process and avoid melting of the carrier liquid. It is a beneficial coincidence that these controls also maintain temperatures below the Tg values for some of the materials listed. Thus, the method may be carried out at ambient temperature. Alternatively, the method may

be carried out at a temperature above ambient temperature, in order to reduce the time taken to complete the process.

The modified fluoropolymer particles may be treated after sublimation has occurred or at any point during the process of the present invention. Such modifications may include, milling or irradiation of the fluoropolymer. Irradiation of the fluoropolymer would generally be carried out after milling to assist in particle size control. Milling adjusts the particle size distribution of the modified fluoropolymer, for example reducing the mean particle size to produce a finer powder. Typically the milling would be carried out conventionally in a pin or jet mill.

Where the method additionally comprises irradiation of the modified fluoropolymer particles, this would typically be carried out on the powder, but alternatively on the suspension. Irradiation adjusts the melt characteristics of the modified fluoropolymer, for example to lower the melting temperatures/glass transition temperatures and increase the melt flow rate.

The method of the present invention does not result in the tight agglomeration of the particles, but instead produces a fine powder, which is suitable for use in extrusion, conventional powder spray application techniques or for redispersion in aqueous or organic media. The friable powder can be broken down easily for particle size modification.

The method of the invention may be carried out at a temperature below the glass transition temperature of the fluoropolymer, in contrast to the known processes involving spray drying and coagulation, which require temperatures well in excess of 100 0 C. The use of ambient temperature allows greater energy efficiency, while the use of temperatures that are above ambient temperature, but below the glass transition temperature, can be used to increase the speed with which the

sublimation proceeds. Temperatures above ambient can also be used to assist secondary drying, to drive off any remaining liquid carrier traces.

The method of the invention can be used to prepare a modified fluoropolymer powdered material whether the fluoropolymer would tend to be fibrillatable or non- fibrillatable. A fibrillatable polymer is one which forms fibers when exposed to a shear force. The known methods, which involve spray drying and coagulation, both expose the solid fluoropolymer particles to shear forces, which can result in the production of an intractable material. The present invention does not involve shear forces at any stage and is therefore suitable for use with a fibrillatable fluoropolymer.

The method of the invention may be used to prepare a modified fluoropolymer powdered material from a pumpable or non-pumpable suspension of the solid fluoropolymer particles in a liquid carrier. The suspension may be non-pumpable because of high viscosity or shear sensitivity. The method does not involve any steps where the suspension must be pumped. Instead, the suspension may be poured or scooped into the tray for freezing, and the solid, frozen block may be transferred into the vacuum chamber.

The invention may be carried into practice in varying ways and some embodiments will now be described in the following Example:

Example 1

Experiment with the addition of nano SiC as a modifier to MFA powder.

Lake Chemicals and Minerals Ltd Beta Nano Silicon Carbide with a particle size of 40 nm was added slowly with slow speed mixing to a 6202-1 MFA aqueous dispersion to give 0.2% SiC content on dry weight. The mixture was poured into trays and forzen prior to freeze drying. Xylan 4018/F9727 Black primer was

applied to a grit blasted aluminium panel. The freeze-dried powder was sieved through a 90 micron sieve to remove large particles. The powder was applied by electrostatic powder spray gun over wet primer. The panel was flashed off at 150°C for 5 minutes and cured at 400°C for 20 minutes. A continuous smooth film was formed at 25-30 microns powder.

Hyflon 6202-1 MFA dispersion was freeze-dried and sieved through a 90 micron sieve. The powder was applied by electrostatic powder spray gun over wet Xylan 4018/F9729 Black on a grit blasted aluminium panel. The panel was flashed off at 15O 0 C for 5 minutes and cured at 400 0 C for 20 mintes

Panels were evaluated using the reciprocating abrasion tester with a 3kg weight and 3M Scotchbrite 7447 Abrasive pad. The pad was changed every 1000 cycles.

The unmodified MFA 6202-1 panel with a total dry film thickness of 35-46 microns has first substrate exposure after 8000 cycles and 5% substrate exposure after 10000 cycles.

The 0.2% SiC modified MFA 6202-1 panel with a total dry film thickness of 35-44 microns has first substrate exposure after 12000 cycles and 5% substrate exposure after 16000 cycles.