Various methods were employed to study the thermal behaviors of a novel microbial polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) terpolyester, namely, poly(3-hydroxybutyrate- co-3-hydroxyvalerate- co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) (PHBVHHx) compared with poly(3-hydroxybutyrate- co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) (PHBHHx). PHBVHHx showed higher crystallization rate and degree of crystallinity. PHBVHHx exhibited also different multiple melting behaviors from PHBHHx. The WAXD results demonstrated that the crystal lattice of PHBVHHx was more compact than that of PHBHHx, suggesting stronger interaction between chain stems. DSC and in-situ heating WAXD studies revealed that PHBVHHx showed a partial melting-lamellar thickening-remelting process during heating, while PHBHHx demonstrated a melting-rapid formation of new crystals-remelting process. It is proposed that the simultaneous introduction of 3-hydroxyvalerate and 3-hydroxyhexanoate monomers into poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) improves the mobility of chain stems along the chain direction, leading to easier intralamellar slip during heating or drawing, further resulting in improvement of mechanical properties, which was supported by the DMA tests. Consequently, we establish a relationship between the thermal behavior and the mechanical properties of biodegradable plastics, which we believe is applicable to other polymers as well. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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