Physical and chemical aspects of long-term biodeterioration of some polymers and composites

Author: 

Lugauskas A, Prosychevas I, Levinskaite L, Jaskelevicius B.
Environ Toxicol. 2004 Aug;19(4):318-28.

Abstract: 

A biodeterioration study was performed on synthetic polymeric materials including homogenous film made from poly(tetrafluorine ethylene), copolymer film made from tetrafluorine ethylene and perfluoromethyl vinyl ether, vulcanized rubber containing natural caoutchouc, and vulcanized rubber, the main component of which was synthetic butadiene nitrile caoutchouc. The materials were exposed for 12 years to the open air, in mycological containers, and in a cellar in maritime climate conditions: air humidity 72%-90% and seasonal average temperature of 17 degrees C in summer and -2.5 degrees C in winter. The studies of optical and electron microscopy revealed that microorganisms were able to develop not only on the surface of the materials but also to penetrate inside into deeper layers. The fungi that produced the most intensive deterioration in the fluorine polymers and vulcanized rubbers belonged to the Alternaria, Aspergillus, Aureobasidium, Cladosporium, Penicillium, Oidiodendron and Trichoderma genera. The fungi Aspergillus fumigatus, A. niger, Aureobasidium pullulans, and Trichoderma viride produced the most intensive deterioration in the fluorine films, whereas Alternaria tenuissima, Cladosporium herbarum, C. sphaerospermum, and fungi of the Oidiodendron genus were widespread on vulcanized rubbers. Fungi of the Aspergillus and Penicillium genera prevailed on both fluorine films and rubbers exposed in a cellar. Infrared spectroscopy indicated that the structures of poly(tetrafluorine ethylene) and the copolymer of tetrafluorine ethylene and perfluoromethyl vinyl ether did not change after the 12-year exposure; only insignificant changes in surface morphology were observed by optical microscopy. Vulcanized rubber made both from natural and from synthetic caoutchouc exposed for the same length of time showed rather evident changes in appearance and structure. X-ray graphical analysis revealed that new crystallization of the caoutchouc and a possible change in chemical composition of the fillers had occurred.