Engineering Toolbox for Systematic Design of PolyHIPE Architecture

Polymers (Basel). 2021 May 4;13(9):1479. doi: 10.3390/polym13091479.


Polymerization of high internal phase emulsions (polyHIPEs) is a well-established method for the production of high porosity foams. Researchers are often regulated to using a time-intensive trial and error approach to achieve target pore architectures. In this work, we performed a systematic study to identify the relative effects of common emulsion parameters on pore architecture (mixing speed, surfactant concentration, organic phase viscosity, molecular hydrophobicity). Across different macromer chemistries, the largest magnitude of change in pore size was observed across surfactant concentration (~6 fold, 5-20 wt%), whereas changing mixing speeds (~4 fold, 500-2000 RPM) displayed a reduced effect. Furthermore, it was observed that organic phase viscosity had a marked effect on pore size (~4 fold, 6-170 cP) with no clear trend observed with molecular hydrophobicity in this range (logP = 1.9-4.4). The efficacy of 1,4-butanedithiol as a reactive diluent was demonstrated and provides a means to reduce organic phase viscosity and increase pore size without affecting polymer fraction of the resulting foam. Overall, this systematic study of the microarchitectural effects of these macromers and processing variables provides a framework for the rational design of polyHIPE architectures that can be used to accelerate design and meet application needs across many sectors.

Keywords: emulsion stability; emulsion viscosity; polyHIPEs; pore architecture; pore size; thermodynamics.