Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 2781-2794

First online:

Crystallization and morphology of a bacterial thermoplastic: poly-3-hydroxybutyrate

  • P. J. BarhamAffiliated withH. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol
  • , A. KellerAffiliated withH. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol
  • , E. L. OtunAffiliated withH. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol
  • , P. A. HolmesAffiliated withICI Agricultural Division

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This paper presents a number of interesting results on the physical properties of poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB). Data are presented on crystallization kinetics, morphology of melt- and solution-crystallized PHB, the variation of lamellar thickness with crystallization temperature, and the assessment of some thermodynamic quantities. These properties include surface free energies, heat of fusion and melting, and glass transition temperatures. It is shown that the special properties of PHB such as the large spherulite size, which is probably due to its exceptional purity, make it an ideal material for model studies of polymer crystallization and morphology. For example, we show that the variation of growth rate with crystallization temperature is consistent with the very latest theories; and that the single crystal morphology has important implications for the understanding of crystal growth in other polymer systems.