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Multi-Zone drying schemes for lowering the residual solvent content during multi-component drying of semicrystalline polymers
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The development of a glassy skin in multicomponent semicrystalline polymer systems limits the diffusion of solvents out of the system and increases residual solvent levels. Based on the results of a mathematical model that we had previously developed, we have proposed a multi-zone drying scheme aimed at lowering the residual solvent levels by taking into account the effect of interactions between the various solvents as predicted by the model. This article focuses on the application of this model to develop optimal drying schemes and to verify the effectiveness of these predictions using experimental techniques. The mathematical model developed previously to study the diffusion of multiple solvents and changes in the crystallinity of semicrystalline polymer systems during drying incorporates many features including Vrentas-Duda diffusion theory, solvent-induced crystallization kinetics, as well as glass transition effects and skinning of the film. The multi-zone drying system was developed by varying the drying temperature in each zone as well as changing the partial pressure of individual solvents during the drying process. The effectiveness of the multi-zone drying schemes predicted by the model was validated experimentally using thermogravimetric methods. The polymer-solvent system chosen was a poly(vinyl alcohol)-water-methanol system. Our experimental data suggested that the multi-zone drying schemes were superior to a single-zone drying system through direct comparison. Further examination of the mathematical model yielded individual solvent profiles and these data reaffirmed our conclusions that a multi-zone drying scheme has the ability to reduce the effect of solvent trapping and thus lower the overall residual solvent content.